Due to energy consumption, converting sea or brackish water into potable water is more costly than obtaining fresh water from surface water, water recycling or water conservation. However, these alternatives are not always available.
We are playing a key role in protecting and increasing one of Australia’s most valuable resources by developing several new treatment technologies that use renewable energy and are environmentally friendly and inexpensive, including techniques for:
- seawater desalination
- water treatment processes and wastewater sterilisation
- selective removal of heavy metals from industrial wastewater
- efficient concentration of wastewater slimes to recycle water
- the prevention of water cavitation to enable much cheaper transport.
Other new techniques like high-temperature reactions achieved in low-temperature water and low energy desalination are also being developed.
We have developed several new water technologies based on improved desalination processes and efficient wastewater treatment processes. We have also produced several international Patent Cooperation Treaty applications and submitted several provisional patent applications, which have led to the establishment of new local companies: ‘Breakthrough Technologies’ and ‘Breakthrough Water Technologies’.
We have also produced many international journal articles. During this time Professor Barry Ninham AO FAA, who works closely with our group, was awarded the Academy of Sciences’ 2017 Matthew Flinders Medal.
We have several new technologies that are expected to have widespread applications for both community and industrial development in Australia and overseas including:
- Propeller cavitation prevention
- Copper ion removal from mining wastewater, funded by Newcrest Mining
- Carbon dioxide (CO2) industrial wastewater sterilisation applied to piggeries funded by Australia Pork Ltd
- Fire suppressant coatings - using solar energy to produce carbon fibres and a new coating to prevent ember attack during bushfires.
- Improved seawater desalination processes aimed at improving energy efficiency.
We have successfully extended the hot air bubble process to a range of other gases, which are shown to offer a range of different properties. For example, CO2 can sterilise solutes (even viruses) even at low temperatures. Hot oxygen (O2) bubbles can oxidise solutes and can kill bacterial cells. We have also discovered hot helium (He) bubbles can reduce the hydrogen (H) bonding in seawater, enhancing vaporisation.
We also have two current externally funded post-doctoral positions and are in negotiations with a commercial group interested in developing the fire suppressant technology.