News Feature | June 17, 2014

Invention Gets Wastewater To Wash Itself

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome


A new invention known as a Virtual Curtain tries to take some of the effort out of treating wastewater by enlisting contaminants as cleaning agents. 

"Using wastewater to clean itself is the premise of new Australian technology that relies on the formation of compounds called hydrotalicites, and which results in less sludge than traditional water treatment with lime. In one test, the equivalent of 20 Olympic-sized swimming pools of wastewater were treated, with final sludge reductions of up to 90 percent," Gizmag reported

Invented by researchers at CSIRO, Australia's science agency, the technology was successfully deployed in a commercial mine for the first time this year. 

How it works: Researchers alter the concentration of magnesium and aluminum in the wastewater, so that the pH of the water rises, according to Gizmag. Chemically altering the wastewater spurs the formation of hydrotalicites. As these crystals take shape, they trap contaminants inside themselves. 

"The resulting mixture can be easily centrifuged to separate out the sludge, which there is less of due to its higher concentration and smaller volume of water mixed in. The now-concentrated sludge can be theoretically 'mined' again to recover some of the metals and minerals from the mixture. The water can be more efficiently purified further, if needed, and reused by the facility," Gizmag reported.

Making use of contaminants already present in wastewater is a cost-saver, according to TCE Today, a trade publication for chemical engineers.

“We have avoided the need for expensive infrastructure and complicated chemistry to treat the waste,” CSIRO scientist Grant Douglas said in the piece.

The technology is sold by the Australian company Virtual Curtain Limited, Business Insider Australia reported

Image credit: "Fulton Officials Discuss Improvements to Wastewater Treatment Plant," KOMUnews © 2014, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license:

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