Nav: Home

UBC invention uses bacteria to purify water

April 04, 2017

A University of British Columbia-developed system that uses bacteria to turn non-potable water into drinking water will be tested next week in West Vancouver prior to being installed in remote communities in Canada and beyond.

The system consists of tanks of fibre membranes that catch and hold contaminants--dirt, organic particles, bacteria and viruses--while letting water filter through. A community of beneficial bacteria, or biofilm, functions as the second line of defence, working in concert to break down pollutants.

"Membrane treatment can remove over 99.99 per cent of contaminants, making them ideal for making drinking water," said project lead Pierre Bérubé, a UBC civil engineering professor who developed the system with support from the federally funded Canada-India research organization IC-IMPACTS.

Membrane water treatment is not new, but Bérubé says the modifications developed by his team, described recently in Water Research, produce an even more effective solution.

"Our system is the first to use gravity to scour and remove captured contaminants, which otherwise accumulate and clog the membrane. It's low-maintenance and as efficient as conventional approaches that need chemicals and complex mechanical systems to keep the membranes clean," said Bérubé. "The biofilm also helps by essentially eating away at the captured contaminants. You just open and close a few valves every 24 hours in order to 'lift' the water and let gravity and biology do their thing. This means significant savings in time and money over the lifetime of the system."

West Vancouver was chosen for pilot testing because of its proximity, but the eventual goal is to install similar systems for communities where clean drinking water is hard to come by.

"Access to clean drinking water is a constant challenge for millions of people around the world. Our goal is to provide a model for low-cost, effective water treatment for communities, and to help locals help themselves as they build, operate and even expand their water treatment plants," said Bérubé.
-end-
Watch video: https://youtu.be/gNnxiN3g1Bs

Flickr gallery: https://www.flickr.com/photos/ubcpublicaffairs/albums/72157678671920604

"Operation of passive membrane systems for drinking water treatment" was published February 2017 in Water Research. To download a copy, visit http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0043135417301641

University of British Columbia

Related Bacteria Articles:

Conducting shell for bacteria
Under anaerobic conditions, certain bacteria can produce electricity. This behavior can be exploited in microbial fuel cells, with a special focus on wastewater treatment schemes.
Controlling bacteria's necessary evil
Until now, scientists have only had a murky understanding of how these relationships arise.
Bacteria take a deadly risk to survive
Bacteria need mutations -- changes in their DNA code -- to survive under difficult circumstances.
How bacteria hunt other bacteria
A bacterial species that hunts other bacteria has attracted interest as a potential antibiotic, but exactly how this predator tracks down its prey has not been clear.
Chlamydia: How bacteria take over control
To survive in human cells, chlamydiae have a lot of tricks in store.
Stress may protect -- at least in bacteria
Antibiotics harm bacteria and stress them. Trimethoprim, an antibiotic, inhibits the growth of the bacterium Escherichia coli and induces a stress response.
'Pulling' bacteria out of blood
Magnets instead of antibiotics could provide a possible new treatment method for blood infection.
New findings detail how beneficial bacteria in the nose suppress pathogenic bacteria
Staphylococcus aureus is a common colonizer of the human body.
Understanding your bacteria
New insight into bacterial cell division could lead to advancements in the fight against harmful bacteria.
Bacteria are individualists
Cells respond differently to lack of nutrients.

Related Bacteria Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Jumpstarting Creativity
Our greatest breakthroughs and triumphs have one thing in common: creativity. But how do you ignite it? And how do you rekindle it? This hour, TED speakers explore ideas on jumpstarting creativity. Guests include economist Tim Harford, producer Helen Marriage, artificial intelligence researcher Steve Engels, and behavioral scientist Marily Oppezzo.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#524 The Human Network
What does a network of humans look like and how does it work? How does information spread? How do decisions and opinions spread? What gets distorted as it moves through the network and why? This week we dig into the ins and outs of human networks with Matthew Jackson, Professor of Economics at Stanford University and author of the book "The Human Network: How Your Social Position Determines Your Power, Beliefs, and Behaviours".