Nanotechnology and Water Sustainability Research Unit

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The Nanotechnology and Water Sustainability (NanoWS) research unit is a strategic research niche at the College of Science, Engineering and Technology (CSET) that addresses current and emerging issues relating to water quality and water scarcity. Central to this, is the use of conventional and innovative technologies that will help provide alternative water resources and to ensure that such water is treated to acceptable levels suitable for its purpose, for example, drinking or any non-potable use, such as industrial, agricultural or groundwater discharge. The NanoWS research unit draws expertise from a number of researchers, collectively with lots of experience and their international collaborators have answered a number of research questions pertaining to water quality and supply issues.

The unit is also at the forefront of integrating nanotechnologies with existing water treatment practices with the goal of optimizing the efficiency of conventional water treatment technologies.

The NanoWS Research Unit focuses on the development of nanotechnology enhanced membrane materials (and adsorbents) and Water Sustainability. In this context, water sustainability refers to:

  • Potable water production from both traditional water sources (fresh surface and ground waters) and non-traditional water sources (contaminated surface and ground waters, brackish groundwater and seawater)
  • Advanced wastewater treatment to protect drinking water sources from contamination and to harvest fresh water, biogas, and fertilizer from wastewater.
  • Production of clean, renewable (base load) power from salinity gradients.

These focus areas are drawn from accumulated research experience of this research group as evidenced by the numerous research articles that have been published over the last ten years. Beyond the application and science of nanostructured membranes for use in water treatment and water desalination, the research plan includes development of novel nanomaterials as adsorbents, catalysts and sensors for water purification and understanding the fate of these engineered nanoparticles in the environment.

Furthermore, we monitor and characterize natural organic matter (NOM) in water and its treatability throughout the water treatment train especially after water disinfection which results in disinfection by-products which often pose a serious threat to health. In relation to this, we are able to quantify the disinfection by products as well as other emerging pollutants particularly persistent organic pollutants (POPs) which have not yet been studied to any greater detail compared to the inorganic species in water with respect to their removal. Moreover, analytical methods have to be developed in order to quantify the organic and inorganic pollutants found in water since some of these pollutants are present at parts-per-billion levels.