Let's talk about water

Whetting appetites for Bath's water research

Researchers to use algae to clean up mine water

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📥  Waste water collection and 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/


New Water Innovation and Research Centre Approved


📥  WIRC @ Bath

The Board of Studies of the Faculty of Engineering & Design has approved the establishment of a Water Innovation and Research Centre at the University: WIRC @ Bath.

hands-with-waterThe new Centre will provide a unique environment in which research into water technologies and resource management will be conducted, contributing to future water policy and the development of innovative and integrated sustainable water treatment systems.

The University of Bath is home to many water research projects, including a series of programmes carried out in collaboration with Wessex Water. The new Centre will build on these projects to develop major research in five themes: water treatment, water resources, water management, water and public health, and water environment and infrastructure resilience.

You can find out more about the new Centre through its webpages, or a recent University of Bath news item.


The a-maze-ing Leidenfrost Maze


📥  Other

While this isn’t strictly a blog about our water research, it does (loosely) involve water so we couldn’t resist sharing it with you!

Our colleagues in the Department of Physics here at Bath have been making international headlines with their Leidenfrost Maze, which sees water travelling uphill.

When droplets of water on a heated surface reach a certain temperature, the droplet surface starts to boil rapidly allowing it to float or levitate on the evaporated gas vapour. This is known as the Leidenfrost effect and is commonly seen during cooking – when sprinkling water onto a hot pan which is above the Leidenfrost point, droplets skitter across the pan and take longer to evaporate.

Watch the Leidenfrost effect in action and read more about the research.


Electric bugs used to detect water pollution


📥  Water supply from source to tap

In a new report out today, a team of researchers from our Department of Chemical Engineering have developed a low-cost device that could be used in developing countries to monitor the quality of drinking water in real time without costly lab equipment.

Current methods of detecting pollutants in water are costly, time-consuming and require specialist technical expertise. However, our researchers, in collaboration with Bristol Robotics Laboratory at the University of the West of England, have created a low cost sensor using 3D printing technology that can be used directly in rivers and lakes for continuous water quality monitoring.

The sensor contains bacteria that produce a small measurable electric current as they feed and grow. The researchers found that when the bacteria are disturbed by coming into contact with toxins in the water, the electric current drops, alerting to the presence of pollutants in the water.

Read the full story about this research.


Making waves in water research


📥  WIRC @ Bath

The University of Bath has published a new summary of its water research today, demonstrating how its researchers are working extensively with the water industry to address the major challenges faced by the sector.

water-waves-on-rocksWe know that water is the most important natural resource on earth. With an ever growing demand on limited water resources, it is essential that we approach sustainable water management in an innovative and integrated way.

Find out at a glance about the wide range of water research projects we’re involved in.


Water shortages still likely to affect UK food security


📥  Water in the circular economy

A new piece of research from the University has found that despite us experiencing the wettest winter for 250 years, water shortages are still likely to be a problem in Britain.

droughtThe paper, published today in Climate Research journal by Bath and Loughborough researchers, warns that food security in Britain faces a real threat from water shortages in other parts of the world.

Dr Alistair Hunt from our Department of Economics said: “Many of the commodities we use everyday, such as food and manufactured goods, and especially those that rely on the availability of land or water, are sensitive to climate change on a global scale.

“Our research looked at the water used to create 25 of Britain’s most economically significant and climate-sensitive imports, essential items such as crops, meat, fish, fuels, pharmaceuticals and paper.

“We found that these products represented 30 per cent of Britain’s imports in 2010, and required 12.8billion cubic metres of water. From this we were able to compare the need for water with models that show the changes in our economy and those that show changes in the availability of global resources such as water, and determine how secure Britain’s future imports are.”

The research team has determined that Britain is likely to become increasingly susceptible to a loss of global water availability in the future.

Dr Hunt said: “Britain is susceptible to pressures on global water resources because the national water footprint and water import dependency are relatively high even before climate change and population growth are considered. Some of Britain’s most important water-trading partners are already water scarce and now face increasing scarcity from climate change.

The research group has also been able to outline how countries like Britain that depend on climate-sensitive imported resources can reduce risk, through measures such as investing in the development of exporting nations, and by improving trade relations with potential new supplying nations.

Dr Hunt said: “Many countries have studied the risks that they face from climate change within their own borders, but few countries have looked at the impact of global climate change on their wellbeing and resource security.

“Our study highlights that even in a time when water may be of huge abundance within Britain, its scarcity in other parts of the world is likely to have negative consequences for British people.”

Co-author Robert Wilby, Professor of Hydroclimatic Modelling at Loughborough University, added: "Our research shows we really do need a more integrated approach to land, water and food, if we are to meet the challenges posed by climate change at home and abroad."

You can access the full research paper online at http://www.int-res.com/journals/cr/cr-home/


Waste seashells can solve waste water problem


📥  Waste water collection and treatment

Today the University has announced the results of a new research paper by Dr Darrell Patterson that find you can use waste seashells to clean waste water.

Daryl-Patterson-mussel-shells2The thousands of tonnes of waste seashells created by the edible seafood sector could now be put to use by our Department of Chemical Engineering in a new waste water cleaning project.

In the research, waste mussel shells were used to create a cheaper and more environmentally friendly way of ‘polishing’ waste water. This knowledge could now be used to remove unwanted substances like hormones, pharmaceuticals or fertilisers from the water system.

You can read the full University of Bath news item on this research here, or access the research paper here.


Wessex Water to invest in University research


📥  Wessex Water, WIRC @ Bath

We’re thrilled to announce a new partnership between our water researchers here at Bath and Wessex Water.

Elliott-Arnot2The partnership will allow five streams of research into areas such as sustainable water and sewage treatment, keeping bills affordable and reducing carbon footprint - all of which will be explored by a multi-disciplinary research team from fields as diverse as the sciences, engineering and management here at Bath.

The collaboration will also allow us to launch a new state of the art ‘Water Innovation and Research Centre @ Bath’ in 2015, a facility that will provide a unique environment in which research into water technologies and resource management can be conducted.

You can read more about this new partnership here: http://www.bath.ac.uk/research/news/2013/06/11/wessex-water-to-invest-in-bath-research/