October Research News
Research Newsletter – October 2023
Welcome to our October 2023 Research and Innovation Newsletter.
Once again, this newsletter summarises the amazing amount of research and innovation reported in just one month. Sometimes, I wonder if there will be enough for next month’s newsletter, but the work of the water industry never disappoints.
If you see any interesting articles, projects or news about new research that others might be interested in, please send to [email protected] – it could even make the next newsletter due in November 2023.
If you’ve stumbled on this newsletter and would like to receive future editions please click this link. Or if you know someone who really needs this: forward to a friend.
Industry Innovation and Resilience
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Australia’s draft National Science and Research Priorities

In case you missed it, the Australian Government has released the draft National Science and Research Priorities for consultation.
Even though this second round of consultation has just concluded, it is still worth having a look at the proposed draft.
The new priorities take the form of outcomes for the Australian community. They focus on ensuring a net zero future and protecting biodiversity, healthy and thriving communities, productive and innovative economy and a stronger and more resilient nation.
The good news is that these are outcomes that the water industry is also focussed on.
The 39th Annual WateReuse Symposium Join an Australian Group with WSAA

The Annual WateReuse Symposium is the premier conference on water recycling — attracting water professionals and water reuse practitioners globally. Held over four days in Denver Colorado, the Symposium is a unique opportunity.

Calling for Expressions of Interest for Australian attendees

Given the increasing interest in purified recycled water in Australia/New Zealand, WSAA is offering an extended program for attendees from Australia which will include site visits to other key US recycling schemes. The opportunity is open to water utility staff, regulators, and anyone interested in water recycling. You don’t have to be a member of WSAA to take part.

Find out more and submit your expression of interest here

Read more about the WateReuse Symposium

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Plastics Spill from Queensland’s Bribie Island Could Harm Wildlife for Years

A south-east Queensland plastics spill in which 40,000 small discs were recently flushed into the ocean could threaten birds and marine life for years to come.

40 litres of plastics known as biomedia were accidentally discharged from the Bribie Island Research Centre, with many washing up on nearby Woorim beach.

A reminder that all research has risks and the potential to have unintended consequences.

Read more in the Guardian

Energy and the Circular Economy
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Microbes are Being Deployed in York Sewers to ‘Eat’ Fatbergs

Yorkshire Water in the UK has partnered with an odour control manufacturer to help deal with sewer blockages caused by fats, oils and grease (FOG) from York’s food service businesses.

The solution, developed by Cobra Hydro, is a dosing block that is suspended in the sewage, slowly dissolving and releasing microbes and enzymes that help to break down fats.

Read more at Yahoo News

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Removing Microplastics with Fungal Pellets
Researchers from Texas A&M University have developed a novel approach to removing microplastics from water via fungal pelletisation.
The research investigated a number of strains of fungus that exhibit pellet formation. In short, the microplastics adhere to the biomass formed as the fungus grows and are then easier to remove.
Hybrid Catalyst Produces Critical Fertiliser and Cleans Wastewater
Researchers from Northwestern University and the University of Toronto have found that producing the fertiliser urea using electrified synthesis could also help denitrify wastewater and produce low-carbon-intensity urea.
A complex life cycle analysis has enabled the team to understand both the effectiveness of urea production and the efficiency of emission production.
There is some great research here and some well thought through methodologies.
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Unlocking the Potential of Wastewater Using AI

Researchers from Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany are training AI models on data from a multitude of sensors that monitor the water quality and treatment process.

The basic idea behind research is to combine data and AI in wastewater treatment plants to produce a set of complementary software tools that can help the operators of these plants to promote their decisions.

Read more at Aquatech

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New Method for Purifying Water Contaminated by Glyphosate

Researchers at São Paulo State University (UNESP) in Brazil have developed a strategy for removing glyphosate, one of the world’s most frequently used herbicides, from water.

Inspired by the concept of the circular economy, the technique is based on sugarcane bagasse, a waste material produced by sugar and ethanol plants.

Read more at PhysOrg

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New Low-Cost Lithium Production

Researchers at Princeton have developed an extraction technique that reduces the amount of land and time needed for lithium production.

The researchers say their system can improve production at existing lithium facilities and unlock sources previously seen as too small or diluted to be worthwhile.

The core of the technique is a set of porous fibres twisted into strings, which the researchers engineered to have a water-loving core and a water-repelling surface.

Read more at Princeton

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Scottish Water Trials New Tech for Wastewater Emission Measurement

Scottish Water is trialling a new technique for measuring emissions from wastewater.

The infra-red technology can pinpoint tiny molecules of emissions from more than two kilometres away, giving experts a detailed read-out of greenhouse gases to allow them to eliminate them more effectively.

Read more at AquaTech

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Bacteria Generate Electricity From Wastewater

Researchers at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne have enhanced the ability of E. coli bacteria to generate electricity.

The innovative approach offers a sustainable solution for organic waste processing while outperforming previous state-of-the-art technologies, opening new horizons for versatile microbial electricity production.

Read more at WaterOnline

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Genetically Modified Bacteria Break Down Plastics in Saltwater

Researchers from NC State University have genetically engineered a marine microorganism to break down plastic in salt water.

Specifically, the modified organism can break down polyethylene terephthalate (PET), a plastic used in everything from water bottles to clothing that is a significant contributor to microplastic pollution in oceans.

Read more at NCSU

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New Method for Purifying Water in Disaster Zones
Researchers from the University of Bath have developed a new method that converts seawater into drinking water that could be useful in disaster zones where there is limited electrical power.
Unlike reverse osmosis, the new method doesn’t use any external pressure but instead uses a small amount of electrical energy to pull chloride ions through the membrane towards a positively charged electrode.
Food Waste Can Be Converted to Valuable Nanocellulose

Researchers from Australia and China have converted runny waste from a cheese manufacturer into a nanocellulose material through fermentation, in the same way that kombucha is produced.

Unlike the vegan leather that can be produced from this process, the researchers have developed highly pure nanocellulose – ideal for biomedical applications, such as wound dressings, pharmaceutical compounding and cell cultures.

Read a summary of the research on Mirage News

Link to the whole paper on Science Direct

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3D-Printed ‘Living Material’ Could Clean Up Contaminated Water

Researchers at the University of California San Diego have developed a new ‘living material’ to remove pollutants from water.

The material is a 3D-printed structure made of a seaweed-based polymer combined with bacteria that have been genetically engineered to produce an enzyme that transforms various organic pollutants into benign molecules.

Read more at WaterOnline

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New Self-Cleaning Membranes Make More Efficient Desalination

Researchers from NYU Abu Dhabi have developed a new kind of self-cleaning, hybrid membrane that provides a solution that overcomes significant challenges that have, until now, limited desalination technologies.

The new membrane uses stimuli-responsive materials called thermosalient organic crystals that are embedded in polymers.

The thermosalient crystals are a new class of dynamic materials that are capable of sudden expansion or motion upon heating or cooling.

Read more at PhysOrg

Liveability and health
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Behaviour Roadmap Shows the Path to a Circular Economy

Researchers from BehaviourWorks have developed a roadmap to help identify where policy-makers and industry can intervene in the production – consumption cycle to create change, reduce Australia’s material footprint and encourage an efficient use of limited resources.

The roadmap identifies three behaviours that are central to circular success: borrow, or rent an item or service, source items second hand and buy items built to last.

Read more at BehaviourWorks

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Citizen Science Solves Plastic Riddle

Researchers from the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis have revealed that Ghana has become the first country to adopt a citizen science approach to addressing the problem of plastic pollution in marine environments, integrating the data on marine plastic litter into its official monitoring and reporting processes.

The study demonstrated how existing citizen science data and networks can be leveraged to address the data gap on marine litter at a national level and fed into global SDG monitoring and reporting processes.

Read a summary here at PhysOrg

Read the full report here at Springer

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Indigenous Data Sovereignty

Some really interesting details about the legal and cultural considerations of Indigenous Data Sovereignty. This was in last month’s newsletter, but I thought it was so important, I’ve left it here for this month.
Indigenous Data Sovereignty (IDSov) is the right that First Nations peoples have to manage the collection, ownership and use of data about them, their Country, knowledge and resources.
Importantly, as we become more focused on working with First Nations peoples and communities and seeking traditional knowledge for background information, we should consider the use of a data sharing agreement to help protect data sovereignty.
If you’d like to know more:
There’s a book here: Indigenous Data Sovereignty: Toward an agenda  and it’s free to read online.
There’s a video here at the Yoorrook Justice Commission
And there’s a group here called the Maiam nayri Wingara Indigenous Data Sovereignty Collective with plenty of resources.
Some interesting things
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A New Type of Concrete Can Store Energy
Engineers from MIT have developed a new kind of concrete that can store energy from solar panels on your roof.
The concrete uses the conductive properties of carbon black to form a long networks of carbon wires that act as supercapacitors.
Unlike a battery, which works by converting chemical energy into electrical energy, a capacitor doesn’t degrade over time and lose the ability to hold a charge.
AWA – NT Water in the Bush Conference and Awards Dinner 2023
12 Oct 2023, 1:00pm – 5:00pm ACST
Darwin Convention Centre
Now in its 34th year, our Water in the Bush Conference is the Territory’s premier annual water conference which connects water professionals, the community and industry.
9 Nov 2023, 8.30am – 5.30pm AEST
Hilton Brisbane
The QWater’23 Conference themed “Making This Decade Matter” will focus on the critical period ahead for water in Queensland
AWA – Connected by Water
28 February – 1 March 2024 in Perth
Call for Papers is now open
This conference will bring together a national and international audience to work together on sustainable water management in Western Australia.

More info

Australia’s Premier Water Exhibition and Conference

30 April – 2 May 2024 in Melbourne

First held as the Federal Convention in 1964, Ozwater is now Australia’s premier water event and the largest water conference and exhibition in the Southern Hemisphere.

Ozwater supports a program of speakers, papers, and workshops by and for people working with water to promote excellence, networking and international engagement.

Global Nature Positive Summit

The Australian and New South Wales Labor governments have announced that Sydney will be the host for the first Global Nature Positive Summit in early October 2024.

The Summit will bring together delegates from around the world including ministers, environment groups, Aboriginal peoples, business, scientists and community leaders, to consider how to supercharge investment in projects that repair nature.

It seems that details are still a bit sketchy, but you can read more about the Summit at DCCEEW.


Research Data Australia

Find, access, and re-use data from over one hundred Australian research organisations

Australian Government – GrantConnect
Forecast and current Australian Government grant opportunities

Amazing Trove of Water Industry Research!

UK Water Industry Research have made their trove of research available without charge.

Click here to go to the UKWIR library


Click here to start your journey