Photocatalytic wastewater treatment in a new light
Olive oil, palm oil, seafood - for small producers of such goods, for example in rural parts of Asia, the cost of decontaminating wastewater to the required standard can be a heavy burden. EU-funded researchers have developed innovative photocatalytic technology to support them. Part of the work was carried out by a project partner in Malaysia.
The photoreactor technology proposed by the PCATDES project uses light-emitting diodes (LEDs) to deal with recalcitrant organic pollutants in industrial wastewater. Filtration and microbiological treatment can only remove 95 % or so of the organic matter in effluent from oil mills and seafood processing facilities, the partners note and in February 2013, they set out to develop compact, affordable photocatalytic devices in a bid to solve the problem.
Doing so involved taking photocatalytic decontamination technology another step ahead, notably by creating new material to achieve high reactivity rates. Participants from Germany, Spain, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Turkey and the United Kingdom were involved in the project, which was led by the University of Cardiff.
Compact, affordable, scalable
By the time the project ended in January 2017, the partners had jointly developed two types of device. One of these was a batch reactor intended for use in the projects experiments, while the other a scalable model designed for continuous throughput was deployed to production sites in the three participating Asian countries.
Part of the work conducted in Asia was performed by SIRIM Berhad, the Malaysian governments centre for research and technology development. We were involved in the development of the photocatalytic material and the coating of this material on various substrates, says Isnazunita Ismail, the general manager of SIRIMs Environmental Technology Research Centre.
SIRIM also contributed to various studies conducted during the development and operation of the photocatalytic reactor, and to the sustainability evaluation, Isnazunita reports. A life cycle approach was used for this assessment.
A view from Malaysia
A well-integrated waste management system that helps to reduce water contamination and also makes substantial volumes of treated water available for reuse would support sustainable growth in the industries targeted by PCATDES, Isnazunita notes.
Referring more specifically to the example of palm oil production, she explains that the approach focuses on the post-treatment of effluent, i.e. of wastewater that has already undergone anaerobic and aerobic biological processing. The strategy is to combine existing wastewater treatment with the photocatalytic treatment system, leading towards zero discharge for the palm oil industry, Isnazunita says.
PCATDES covered the entire product development process, from the initial concept to the production of a prototype and, in addition, it delivered a system that can be used for future research work, Isnazunita notes. The multi-faceted work that this undertaking entailed created opportunities to interact with a wide variety of partners.
Isnazunita views the knowledge and experience gained through these collaborations as one of the main outcomes of the project. The networking between the different organisations has broadened, she says, and opportunities for future research collaboration are being considered. Involvement in EU-funded research has added to SIRIMs visibility at international level, she concludes.