Giant container with prototype water treatment system arrives at UWE Bristol for final tests

Issue date: 27 January 2014


Today, 27 January 2014, a giant container will arrive on UWE Bristol Frenchay Campus housing the prototype for a novel water treatment system that has the capacity to revolutionise the lives of people around the globe by providing access to clean drinking water at source.

The container will be winched into position next to a pond located on campus where research into the new treatment system has been conducted in a small shed over the past year.

The 20 foot container is the prototype for the work announced two weeks ago by the University. In this film Professor Darren Reynolds explains how the novel system works. Project partners Portsmouth Aviation and Bridge Biotechnology have worked with Professor Reynolds for a number of years and the industrial partners have brought the container to Bristol to conduct final tests and showcase the project.

The huge blue TARDIS-like container will undergo final tests before being transported to Eastern Europe where it will be tested in situ. Following these tests it is planned for the containers to go into mass production.

Professor Reynolds explains, “The container will house the technology that we and our partners have developed here at UWE Bristol but everything has been scaled up so that the system can deal with much bigger flows of water than the set up in our shed – 'Stanley'. The container has a larger pump giving it the capacity to suck up more water; everything is scaled up including pipes, pumps, and a dosing system to ensure that the novel biocide that is used to treat bacteria becomes self-producing and self-regulating.

“At the moment in the shed set up we have to lug the biocide from the lab to treat the water. The container has refined this system so that the novel biocide that we have developed at UWE Bristol, with our partners Pentair and Bridge Biotechnology Ltd, is self-producing. The container needs an electricity supply and as the first testing site in Eastern Europe is based in a Craiova in Romania this will not be a problem.

“However the beauty of our system is that it can be developed in a modular way so that we can customise the interior to deliver drinking water to suit a range of terrains, environments and water sources. We can power the process using generators, huge batteries or solar panels and this makes huge sense as in some parts of the world these containers will be positioned where fuel is more freely available than safe drinking water.

“We can also adapt the components to deal with different treatment requirements as water treatment is sometimes about treating bacteria and at other times about treating water that has become contaminated with chemicals.

“It really will be fantastic to see the container as this research, like so many ideas, started off as a rough sketch on paper and now, a few years down the line a container with all the technology we have developed inside it turns up on Campus – it is an understatement to say how brilliant it is to see the idea realised.

“This technology has the potential to be truly life changing and this is what we all find so exciting, to us it's all about research with impact but that's not a recent invention. To connect with people from business and industry and to work with students, with all of us driving towards a common purpose, is a clear demonstration of real world application showing that science does make a big difference and it's not all about ivory towers. It's also amazing that this low cost technology can be made available to countries that simply do not have the infrastructure to deliver clean drinking water.

“In Eastern Europe emerging cities have seen enormous expansion but without supporting infrastructure. In some areas this really has reached crisis point with increasing numbers of babies being born with blue baby syndrome which is directly related to consumption of unclean water. The container will be pilot tested in Romania and then rolled out globally.”

Professor Steve West, UWE Vice-Chancellor, says, “This is science for the real world addressing urgent problems through positive partnership working. The work being conducted by Darren's team and our partners, Portsmouth Aviation, Pentair and Bridge Biotechnology is world class.

“This work is not about benefitting generations down the line, although longer term research obviously has an important place; this project demonstrates UWE Bristol at its best with our researchers and industry partners fixing something critical right now. If you get the right team together you can solve global problems that don't cost the earth but, put simply, have the capability to transform lives. We are immensely proud of this work – it is showcasing UWE Bristol at the top of its game.”

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