Designing a Miniaturized Water Treatment Plant at Eden Tech

This sponsored article is dropped at you by COMSOL.

The 1985 action-adventure TV sequence MacGyver showcased the lifetime of Angus MacGyver, a undercover agent who solved issues utilizing gadgets he had available. For instance, in a single episode, he made a warmth defend out of used fridge elements. In one other, he made a fishing lure with a sweet wrapper. Greater than three many years later, the present nonetheless has relevance. The verb MacGyver, to design one thing in a makeshift or artistic method, was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2015.

Attempt placing your MacGyver expertise to the take a look at: If you happen to had been handed some CDs, what would you make out of them? Reflective wall artwork, mosaic ornaments, or a wind chime, maybe? What a few miniaturized water remedy plant?

That is what a workforce of engineers and researchers are doing at Eden Tech, an organization based mostly in Paris, France, that focuses on the event of microfluidics know-how. Inside their R&D division, Eden Cleantech, they’re growing a compact, energy-saving water remedy system to assist sort out the rising presence of micropollutants in wastewater. To research the efficiency of their AKVO system (named after the Latin phrase for water, aqua), which is constituted of CDs, Eden Tech turned to multiphysics simulation.

Contaminants of Rising Concern

“There are numerous methods micropollutants make it into wastewater,” says Wei Zhao, a senior chemical engineer and chief product officer at Eden Tech. The rise of those microscopic chemical compounds in wastewater worldwide is a results of every day human actions. As an illustration, once we wash our palms with cleaning soap, wipe down our sinks with cleansing provides, or flush medicines out of our our bodies, varied chemical compounds are washed down the drain and find yourself in sewage techniques. A few of these chemical compounds are categorised as micropollutants, or contaminants of rising concern (CECs). Along with home waste, agricultural air pollution and industrial waste are additionally in charge for the rise of micropollutants in our waterways.

Micropollutants are added to the world’s lakes, rivers, and streams each day. Many standard wastewater remedy crops are usually not geared up to take away these doubtlessly hazardous chemical residues from wastewater.

Sadly, many standard wastewater remedy crops (WWTP, Determine 1) are usually not designed to take away these contaminants. Subsequently, they’re typically reintroduced to varied our bodies of water, together with rivers, streams, lakes, and even consuming water. Though the chance they pose to human and environmental well being shouldn’t be totally understood, the rising variety of air pollution discovered on this planet’s our bodies of water is of concern.

Determine 1. Most standard water remedy crops are usually not in a position to take away micropollutants.

Ivan Bandura/Unsplash

With this rising drawback in thoughts, Eden Tech set to work on growing an answer, thus AKVO was born. Every AKVO CD core is designed to have a diameter of 15 cm and a thickness of two mm. One AKVO cartridge consists of stacked CDs of various numbers, mixed to create a miniaturized manufacturing facility. One AKVO core treats 0.5 to 2 m3 water/day, which signifies that an AKVO system composed of 10,000 CDs can deal with common municipal wants. This raises the query: How can a tool constituted of CDs decontaminate water?

A Sustainable Wastewater Remedy Methodology

A single AKVO system (Determine 2) consists of a customizable cartridge stuffed with stacked CDs that every have a microchannel community inscribed on them. It removes undesirable components in wastewater, like micropollutants, by circulating the water in its microchannel networks. These networks are vitality savvy as a result of they solely require a small pump to flow into and clear giant volumes of water. The AKVO system’s cartridges can simply get replaced, with Eden Tech caring for their recycling.

The AKVO device, which consists of a transparent cylinder filled with a stack of CDs.

Determine 2. AKVO with all of its elements labeled.

AKVO’s revolutionary design combines photocatalysis and microfluidics into one compact system. Photocatalysis, a sort of superior oxidation course of (AOP), is a quick and efficient method to take away micropollutants from wastewater. In comparison with different AOPs, it’s thought of safer and extra sustainable as a result of it’s powered by a lightweight supply. Throughout photocatalysis, mild is absorbed by photocatalysts which have the flexibility to create electron-hole pairs, which generate free hydroxyl radicals which might be in a position to react with goal pollution and degrade them. The mix of photocatalysis and microfluidics for the remedy of wastewater has by no means been executed earlier than. “It’s a very formidable venture,” stated Zhao. “We wished to develop an modern technique so as to present an environmentally pleasant, environment friendly method to deal with wastewater.” AKVO’s present design didn’t come straightforward, as Zhao and his workforce confronted a number of design challenges alongside the best way.

Overcoming Design Challenges

When in use, a chemical agent (catalyst) and wastewater are dispersed via AKVO’s microchannel partitions. The aim of the catalyst, titanium dioxide on this case, is to react with the micropollutants and assist take away them within the course of. Nevertheless, AKVO’s quick circulate charge complicates this motion. “The large drawback is that [AKVO] has microchannels with quick circulate charges, and generally once we put the chemical agent inside one of many channels’ partitions, the micropollutants within the wastewater can’t react effectively with the agent,” stated Zhao. With a purpose to enhance the chance of contact between the micropollutants and the immobilized chemical agent, Zhao and his workforce opted to make use of a staggered herringbone micromixer (SHM) design for AKVO’s microchannel networks (Determine 3).

To research the efficiency of the SHM design to help chemical reactions for micropollutant degradation, Zhao used the COMSOL Multiphysics software program.

Simulating Chemical Reactions for Micropollutant Degradation

In his work, Zhao constructed two completely different fashions in COMSOL Multiphysics (Determine 4), named the Specific Floor Adsorption (ESA) mannequin and the Transformed Floor Focus (CSC) mannequin. Each of those fashions account for chemical and fluid phenomena.

In each fashions, Zhao discovered that AKVO’s SHM construction creates vortices within the circulate transferring via it, which allows the micropollutants and the chemical agent to have an extended response interval and enhances the mass switch between every fluid layer. Nevertheless, the outcomes of the ESA mannequin displayed that the design purified about 50 p.c of the micropollutants below remedy, fewer than what Zhao anticipated.

In contrast to the ESA mannequin (Determine 5), within the CSC mannequin, it’s assumed that there isn’t any adsorption limitation. Subsequently, so long as a micropollutant arrives on the floor of a catalyst, a response occurs, which has been mentioned in current literature (Ref. 1). On this mannequin, Zhao analyzed how the design carried out for the degradation of six completely different micropollutants, together with gemfibrozil, ciprofloxacin, carbamazepine, clofibric acid, bisphenol A, and acetaminophen (Determine 6). The outcomes of this mannequin had been according to what Zhao anticipated, with greater than 95 p.c of the micropollutants being handled.

“We’re actually glad with the outcomes of COMSOL Multiphysics. My subsequent steps might be targeted on laboratory testing [of the AKVO prototype]. We expect to have our first prototype prepared by the start of 2022,” stated Zhao. The prototype will ultimately be examined at hospitals and water remedy stations within the south of France.

Utilizing simulation for this venture has helped the Eden Tech workforce save money and time. Creating a prototype of a microfluidic system, like AKVO, is expensive. To imprint microchannel networks on every of AKVO’s CDs, a microchannel photomask is required. In accordance with Zhao, to manufacture one photomask would value about €3000 (3500 USD). Subsequently, it is extremely necessary that they’re assured that their system works effectively previous to its fabrication. “COMSOL Multiphysics has actually helped us validate our fashions and our designs,” stated Zhao.

Pioneer within the Remedy of Micropollutants

In 2016, Switzerland launched laws mandating that wastewater remedy crops take away micropollutants from wastewater. Their aim? Filter out over 80 p.c of micropollutants at greater than 100 Swiss WWTPs. Following their lead, many different international locations are at present pondering of how they need to deal with the rising presence of those contaminants of their waterways. AKVO has the potential to offer a compact, environmentally pleasant method to assist gradual this ongoing drawback.

The subsequent time you go to throw out an outdated CD, or another family merchandise for that matter, ask your self: What would MacGyver do? Or, higher but: What would Eden Tech do? You may be holding the constructing blocks for his or her subsequent modern design.


  1. C. S. Turchi, D. F. Ollis, “Photocatalytic degradation of natural water contaminants: Mechanisms involving hydroxyl radical assault,” Journal of Catalysis, Vol. 122, p. 178, 1990.

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