Let's talk about water

Whetting appetites for Bath's water research

WIRC @ Bath is now a member of the Watershare® community


📥  WIRC @ Bath

Watershare® is based on the concept of sharing water knowledge and experience amongst the members of its community. This knowledge is shared by models and methods that are available to the members as user-friendly tools. They have been successfully applied in practice and demonstrated in case studies. Members can also develop their own tools and add them to the suite, with advice and feedback from the other members. This creates a continuous knowledge sharing and improvement process that can lead to a further productive collaboration within the community.

watershare-bannerWIRC @ Bath is now a gold member of the Watershare® community. The community consists of 11 highly reputable water research institutes in The Netherlands, Greece, Turkey, Belgium, Singapore, South Korea, Germany and Sweden. The goal is to apply water knowledge through a global network of knowledge institutes and help to find solutions to water problems of local end users.

The Watershare® Suite includes a variety of tools for applications in Water Resources, Water Treatment, Distribution, Water Quality and Health and Sustainability. As a Gold Member WIRC @ Bath has the right to use five tools freely and upload one tool to the suite. We have selected four tools in the area of Distribution: Mains Investment Planning, Network Flow Performance, Optivalves and Water-Use Info.  These tools are supplemental to our current research and address two very important topics for the UK Water industry.

Furthermore we have access to a tool to assess sustainability of cities: City Blueprint. With this tool we can expand our research on sustainable cities.

At the moment we don’t have our own tool yet, but with continuous growth of our water research and the WISE CDT, we are confident that we can deliver a contribution to the Watershare® Suite as well.

In the autumn we will organise a small workshop on Watershare® and showcase the possibilities and benefits of being a member.

For more information please contact Prof Jan Hofman.


Water research inspires composers

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📥  Other

This month sees the premiere of two new pieces, created through collaboration between scientists at the Universities of Bath and Bristol, and composers from the South West. These compositions were brought about by a new project, lab notes, which convenes science and music collaborative partnerships, bringing together research scientists and composers to develop new creative work.


On May 31st, experimental group Set Ensemble will perform the new compositions in the atmospheric surroundings of the old crypt at St George’s in Bristol. James Saunders (Bath Spa University) has been working with chemical engineers Mirella Di Lorenzo and Jon Chouler from University of Bath to explore the processes found in microbial fuel cells, devices that generate electricity from any sort of domestic, industrial or agricultural wastewater through the action of ‘electrical’ bacteria. James’s piece, titled different water environments, models this process of electricity generation through the players’ response to the sonic characteristics of waste audio, balancing their sound production against changes in quality of a shortwave radio signal

Dominic Lash has collaborated with biogeochemist Kate Hendry from University of Bristol to make a piece that engages with palaeoclimate methodology, which uses indirect chemical records to understand the links between past oceans and climate. Dominic's piece explores the idea of indirect interpretation of data by having the musicians attempt to duplicate each other's activity in various ways, “sampling” each other through various “filters”. But any musical “output” might serve as “input” for another player, and so the plot thickens...

The event will include performances of both pieces, prefaced by a short talk by each of the scientists. Doors open at 5.30pm for a 6pm start, tickets are £3 on the door.  The evening is sponsored by the South West Crucible.

More information about the musical collaboration on microbial fuel cells.


Can you write for Water Active?


📥  Water Active

The University’s press team has secured an opportunity for Bath’s water researchers to contribute a monthly article to Water Active.

This is a fantastic opportunity for us to share news of the wide variety of water research across all disciplines currently undertaken here at Bath with a large audience of water sector professionals.

Water Active is available as a print magazine, and as a website. The magazine reaches around 20,000 readers and the website attracts around 24,000 unique hits a month. 42 per cent of readers are from utility companies, 14 per cent are civil engineers, and the remainder are from a mix of scientific and engineering disciplines.

We are looking for contributions from the University’s water researchers on current, ongoing, or recently completed work. Articles should be approximately 1,500 words, and we’re looking for a different author each month so your commitment is minimal.

If you’re interested in writing for Water Active please contact Jan Hofman, Director of WIRC @ Bath, or Sarah Eliot, blog maintainer. Additionally, if you have news you would like see added to this blog please contact Sarah.


Bath researchers in Water Active magazine

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📥  Water Active

Two of Bath’s researchers have been featured in this month’s edition of Water Active magazine.


Dr Davide Mattia and Dr Darrell Patterson, both from our Department of Chemical Engineering, recently secured £1m from the EPSRC to research novel membranes. One of the applications of these will be in water filtration.

Through the project, Drs Mattia and Patterson will work with a number of significant industry partners including Johnson Matthey, Evonik, GlaxoSmithKline, BP, Pervatech, Bluestone Global Tech, Anglian Water, Severn Trent Water, Thames Water and Scottish Water.

The new project has already received widespread media attention, including:

Dr Tim Mays, Head of our Department of Chemical Engineering, added: “This is a fantastic project for the University to be involved in. There is a wealth of water research expertise at Bath, across all disciplines. This new grant will see Drs Patterson and Mattia collaborating with water utility providers and other application areas from across the country, and will cement their already established expertise in membrane research.”


Safeguarding the UK’s Water, Energy and Food Resources

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📥  Water Resources

EPSRC is investing £4.5 million to safeguard the UK’s water, energy and food security. With the world’s population due to grow to eight billion by 2030, humanity is facing a crisis with predictions of increasing demand and shortages of water, energy and food.

mirella-di-lorenzo3Water and energy are needed to produce food; water is required to produce energy and with the advent of biofuels, energy and food are increasingly competing for land. This means that any shortage or disruption of one resource will impact on the other two. This unbreakable link between all the resources is known as the water-energy-food nexus. Mirella Di Lorenzo from the Department of Chemical Engineering, together with other 25 academics, was selected to participate in January 2015 in a sandpit organised by EPSRC on this topic. She was the only academic representing the University of Bath in this sandpit and the project she was involved in, Vaccinating the Nexus, was awarded £1.6 million (Grant EP/N005961/1).

This research, led by Dr Paul Kemp, University of Southampton, will be conducted by an inter-disciplinary groups of scientists based at 8 universities in the UK.

This project will focus on improving the resilience of water, energy and food systems. It will investigate how nexus ‘shocks’, such as extreme climatic events that cause flooding or drought, energy shortages,  or unsustainable infrastructure development, may help inform the development of more environmentally sustainable and secure systems.

The project will use information collected during the recent flooding on the Somerset Levels to model the potential for alternative flood resistant agricultural systems, including those used to produce bioenergy crops. Further, planning decision support tools will be developed to help develop an environmentally sensitive approach to deliver the UK energy and water infrastructure plan.  Although the project will focus on UK case studies it will have international relevance and help develop expertise and capability of global value.

Dr Pal Kemp, said: “To ensure future security of supply we need to develop innovative approaches to environmentally sustainable resource management.  This can only be achieved by adopting creative interdisciplinary approaches to develop solutions to the complex challenges faced."

Dr Mirella Di Lorenzo said "We have a range of different backgrounds on board varying from engineering to crop science, maths and social science. This a unique opportunity for me to be involved in such an exciting multidisciplinary project. In Bath we will work on the development of on-site sensors for the online monitoring of microbial activity in soils and nutrient depletion/ pollutant release from soils to water systems due to extreme climate changes such as floodings or droughts".

Professor Philip Nelson, Chief Executive of EPSRC said, “This is one of the most important challenges facing the human race, and one of the most complex. The uniqueness of these projects comes from studying all three problems together, something that hasn’t been done before.

"This project is a great opportunity for scientists with expertise in different disciplines to come together to find solutions".


Funding secured to develop next generation membranes

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📥  Other

Researchers from our University have been awarded a £1m Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) grant to research and develop the next generation of long lasting ‘immortal membranes’ that will be able to separate water from problematic particles such as pharmaceuticals or pollutants.


Dr Darrell Patterson and Dr Davide Mattia, in our Department of Chemical Engineering, are part of a collaboration between six UK universities that has been awarded a £6m EPSRC grant over five years.

This funding will enable a collaborative project entitled ‘From membrane material synthesis to fabrication and function’ (SynFabFun), led by Newcastle University, to establish a UK virtual membrane centre that will act to unite the UK membrane research community.

The programme will look at improving membrane performance in four main industry sectors important to the UK and worldwide: Energy, Manufacturing, Pharma and Water. In all these industries, membranes have the potential to, and in some cases already do, provide a lower energy alternative to existing separation technology, requiring significantly smaller capital costs.

Membranes are not yet widely used for some applications due to their operating costs, requiring periodic cleaning and, eventually, replacement. This is caused by the loss of permeability and/or selectivity during service, and is due to both the membrane material changing and degrading (known as ‘ageing’) as well as a build-up of unwanted material on the surface of the membrane (known as ‘fouling’).

Read the full article.


How Bath research could reduce water scarcity in Middle East

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A Jordanian PhD student has come to Bath to investigate how our algae research could help clean wastewater in her country.


As one of the most water-poor countries in the world, Jordan’s current water resources fall significantly below the global water scarcity line. Annual rainfall falls under 50mm in 95% of the country, nearly all the country’s groundwater sources are being seriously overexploited and experts are warning that Jordan could soon face absolute water poverty.

Their geographic location also means that refugee flow, reported in 2014 to be over 600,000, from Syria, Iraq and Palestine puts even more pressure on the chronically scarce resources.

New ways of cutting down water wastage and overuse are in desperate demand and high on the Jordanian government’s agenda. Micro-algae is a diverse group of species with many potential applications including cleaning and improving the quality of wastewater - an application which, at the moment, remains an uncharted possibility in Jordan. This is what has brought Mais Sweiss to Bath.

“There is no one at my university in Jordan who does algae research and only a handful of people in the whole of Jordan doing research in this field”, Mais says.

Read the full article.




New Chair appointed to lead Bath water research

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📥  WIRC @ Bath

The University of Bath has appointed Professor Jan Hofman to lead its new Water Innovation & Research Centre: WIRC@Bath.

Prof Jan HofmanA chemical engineer with 25 years of experience working in the water sector, Professor Hofman joins the University in March 2015 from his current role as senior researcher at KWR Watercycle Research Institute near Utrecht in the Netherlands.

The University of Bath has created its Water Innovation & Research Centre ‘WIRC @ Bath’ with the aim of providing a unique environment to engage globally in research and policy on water technologies and resource management.

Research carried out at Bath being brought into the new Centre covers five core themes that tackle the fundamental issues surrounding water: water treatment; water resources; water management; water and public health; and water, environment and infrastructure resilience.

Professor Hofman said: “The University of Bath has an ambition to grow WIRC@Bath into a world leading centre for innovative water research. To reach this ambition we will focus on three components; excellent research, collaboration with the water sector and the development and training of young water professionals.

“The University already has funding in place from Wessex Water which has provided a kick-start to reaching this ambition, and the collaboration between the University and Wessex Water supports the development of industry communication and knowledge dissemination.

“My initial plans for the Centre are to secure additional funding in the UK and internationally, establish further industry collaborations and to start new research programmes. I believe it is important to demonstrate the results the centre achieves, and I am looking forward to working in an excellent environment with an exciting team.”

Find out more in the full University of Bath news item.



Climate change is talking

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📥  Other

Here at Bath our water research is truely multidisplinary. In today’s blog we explore how underwater listening technologies can be used to track the changes in icebergs as they melt.

IcebergWhat happens to a glacier when no one is around? In July 2014, at the height of the Arctic summer, Dr Philippe Blondel travelled to the Hornsund glacier in Svalbard to listen to icebergs.

It wasn’t his first arctic field trip and he certainly didn’t have a shortage of field experience in his research team — an international group with members from Poland and New Zealand. But the extremely variable Arctic conditions still led them into a few close shaves.

You can read all about Philippe’s trip and the research he is doing to help understand the impact of climate change on melting glaciers here: http://www.bath.ac.uk/research/case-studies/listening-icebergs


Researchers to use algae to clean up mine water

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📥  Water Treatment

We can announce today that our researchers are part of a ground breaking GW4 research project that aims to clean up water from a Cornish tin mine, using algae to harvest the precious heavy metals and produce biofuel at the same time.

mine-waterGW4 is the South West Research Alliance that brings together the South West and Wales’ four leading, research-intensive universities: Bath, Bristol, Cardiff and Exeter.

Researchers from all four universities, in collaboration with Plymouth Marine Laboratory (PML) are now working with the Coal Authority and Veolia to take untreated mine water samples from Wheal Jane tin mine in Cornwall into the laboratory and grow algae in them. The research will explore whether algae is effective in removing materials such as arsenic and cadmium from the mine water.

Researchers will then look to convert the algae into a solid from which it’s expected that precious heavy metals can be extracted and recycled for use in the electronics industry. The remaining solid waste will then be used to make biofuels.

You can read more about this project here: http://www.bath.ac.uk/research/news/2014/12/05/mine-water-clean-up/