three industrial partners - OpTIC Technium, Yorkshire
Water and Scotoil Services – together
with the UK Government Department of Trade and
Industry (DTI), have committed £1.2m to commercially
develop novel technology for breaking up pollutants
found in all types of water supplies.
From landfill sites to domestic water tanks, the technology has the potential
to be more cost-effective and environmentally-friendly than current methods.
The sunlight-driven technology will clean ‘dirty' water and will provide electricity
as a by-product by a process similar to that exploited in fuel cells. The electrical
energy delivered may be used to drive equipment such as pumps, valve controllers
and remote sensing electronics, further benefiting the environment.
The industrial partners represent two potential end users along with a specialist
manufacturing consultancy. Aberdeen-based Scotoil Services is examining the potential
for the new technology in its mainstream oil industry environmental services
business, along with other industrial and pollution control applications. Yorkshire
Water is looking at the potential within the water supply industry and, like
Scotoil, offers industry knowledge and testing facilities. OpTIC Technium, based
in St Asaph (North Wales), provides the manufacturing expertise.
Speaking ahead of the launch of the project today (April 28), Dr Donald Macphee,
Lead Investigator and Senior Lecturer in the Department of Chemistry at the University,
said: “The photoelectrocatalytic fuel cell (PECFC) is environmentally-friendly
technology aimed at cleaning up pollutants found in the water supply.
“The technology at the centre of the project is a catalyst, which under illumination
by visible light is capable of breaking up complex pollutants into harmless products
whilst simultaneously producing an electrical current.
“Everyone wants access to 'clean water' and this project is aimed initially at
the water supply industry. The new research will act as a platform to commercialise
the lab-based prototype and will benefit the likes of the offshore industry and
consumers by producing clean water.”
Using visible light offers the opportunity of capturing sunlight for this environmental ‘clean-up'
The Aberdeen scientists involved in the project include Drs Donald Macphee and
Richard Wells and Professor John Duffy - all from the Department of Chemistry,
along with Professor Ken Killham from the School of Biological Sciences. They
bring together a unique blend of materials chemistry and environmental microbiology
to develop the cutting-edge nanotechnology aimed at solving both the chemical
and microbiological decontamination of water.
Professor Albert Rodger, Head of the College of Physical Sciences, said: “I
am delighted to be involved in today's launch of this exciting new research
programme which will be based here at the University of Aberdeen.
“The project is interdisciplinary and will be conducted in direct partnership
with industry. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the UK Government
Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), along with the three industrial partners – OpTIC
Technium, Yorkshire Water and Scotoil Services - for the £1.2m funding
they have provided to develop this solar-driven, sustainable technology.
“The research will be based on both materials science and environmental science
and the aim is to have a full-blown prototype in three years which will lead
to the development of technology that will provide ‘safe' water from sunlight
treatment whilst at the same time create electricity.”
The challenges that face the water supply industries continue to grow however
this is a significant opportunity for the fuel cell to emerge as a viable ‘dirty'
water treatment technology. Other applications include treatment of industrial
liquid waste, polluted water from landfill sites, and dirt from the oil and gas
sector, which will aid environmentally-friendly activities.
The sunlight-driven, sustainable technology is also suitable for treating contaminated
water in developing countries.
three-year programme has been awarded to the
Aberdeen-led consortium as part of the Micro
and Nanotechnology Manufacturing Initiative.
The project, Nanotechnology for Sustainable Water
Purification, will receive up to 50% of the project
value from the DTI and will bring together chemists,
materials scientists and microbiologists from
the University's Departments of Chemistry and
Plant & Soil Science,
manufacturing technologists from OpTIC Technium
(based in St Asaph, North Wales), and industrial
end-users, Yorkshire Water and Scotoil Services
Ltd. University and OpTIC Technium partners will
select and test materials for component manufacture,
whilst OpTIC will assemble and package the device
for applications in test-bed and field conditions.
Scotoil Services Ltd and Yorkshire Water are end-users
of the technology and will contribute to the programme
by defining operational parameters and by provision
of trial and testing facilities.
The three industrial partners - OpTIC Technium,
Yorkshire Water and Scotoil Services are participating
in this major research project, with the global
budget being £1.2million. The DTI is contributing £600,000 of this
total budget towards the project, with the three partners contributing the
other 50% between them.
For further information, please contact Dr Donald Macphee, Lead Investigator
and Senior Lecturer in the Department of Chemistry at the University, of Aberdeen,
College of Physical Sciences, University of Aberdeen, telephone: (01224) 272941
or email: firstname.lastname@example.org or
Issued by the Communications Team, Office of External
Affairs, University of Aberdeen, King's College,
Aberdeen. Tel: (01224) 273174.
Contact: Angela Ferguson