The quality of the raw water coming into the plant can change rapidly
The efficiency and cost of water treatment depends on the quantity and quality of natural organic matter (NOM) – small particles from decomposing animal and plants, in the incoming water. Lakes and rivers are major drinking water sources in many countries, and in these waters NOM sources can change rapidly for example during storms, and there are general trends towards deteriorating water quality due to climate change. During water treatment, the content of organic material influences many of the processes in the plant, including thow many chemicals are needed to flocculate and disinfect the water, and the performance and lifetimes of filters and membranes.
Whereas some aspects of NOM can be measured online today, there are no rapid or efficient systems for measuring changes in NOM quality. Instead, existing systems are difficult or expensive to implement or only available offline.
– Existing online systems to predict the behaviour of NOM tend to make poor predictions when composition changes – which it often does especially in surface waters like rivers and lakes. Our solution helps to overcome this challenge, says Kathleen Murphy, docent at the WET division and in the DRICKS framework.
Real time data crucial
The research-based innovation tracks the reactivity of organic matter in real time. Applications include early warning systems to detect changed raw water quality, and improved oversight and control of water treatment systems. This basically means that the water treatment plant should be able to manage treatment more effectively and potentially cut down on chemicals and waste.
– Making drinking water treatment cheaper and more sustainable requires sensitively detecting those changes in water quality that affect treatment effectiveness. Without real-time information we can’t implement a timely response if conditions change, says Kathleen Murphy.
Short path towards an applied product
The team behind the innovation consists of Kathleen with colleagues Stephan Köhler of the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) and Urban Wünsch of the University of Technology Denmark (DTU), who have numerous applied projects and direct connections to water industry. They have a collaboration with incubator Chalmers Ventures which strengthens the possibility for having a product ready in the near future.
– We are currently focusing on applications in drinking water treatment plants and environmental monitoring. With support for professional business development and seed funding we believe we could have an impact already in 2023, says Kathleen.
The researchers now continue their work developing specific applications for their innovation toexpand the infrastructure that makes our drinking water safer and more sustainable.
About IVA 100
IVA is short for "The Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences". IVA’s 100 List presents selected research projects believed to have the potential to be developed into innovations, to promote business development or to provide other benefits. The list reflects a diverse range of research projects and researcher expertise from Sweden’s universities in a given field. IVA’s 100 List highlights research projects of interest that could be a basis for various types of collaboration or could be developed in partnership with a commercial actor, and that inspire the creation of new relationships, meetings and networks. All participating researchers/research teams are eager to increase their contacts with the business community and continue to develop their projects. IVA’s 100 List was launched in connection with IVA’s 100th anniversary in 2019 – which is where the initiative got its name.