Cape Breton University researchers hope to help water woes – SaltWire Network


Work taking place at Cape Breton University could help small communities both locally and globally deal with water contamination issues.

Shine (Xu) Zhang is a CBU chemistry professor and holds the Tier II Canada Research Chair in healthy environments and communities and the industrial research chair in applied nanotechnology. He is working on a project that involves electrochemical water treatment which he believes can offer a green, efficient and cost-effective alternative.

Water pollution, water contamination is a global concern but its also a local problem for Cape Breton and Nova Scotia, Zhang said.

He said he wanted to take on water contamination as a research topic because it is such a big issue.

CBU is a local university, but CBU really wants to contribute to the community, Zhang said. The environment is a big issue. Water contamination is also a global issue, therefore, research here, if we do a good job, can not only help local communities but also help people far away from here.

We want to apply what we learn to solve some real-world problems.

His research program aims at exploiting nanotechnology and nanomaterials for environmental and health applications with a focus on water treatment, cancer diagnostics and treatment with precision nanomedicine. Zhang has published 65 journal articles.

He describes the technology hes developed as being relatively simple, with an electrode acting like a filter. One electrode removed organic material while another electrode removed heavy metals.

Water comes through the filter, dirty water becomes clean, Zhang said.

The technology, I feel is useful because, from a research standpoint, energy consumption is very low, so essentially its quite cost-effective. That is compatible, for example, with solar panel, those kinds of various sustainable power source. It can be a very automatic system, so you dont need a lot of manpower to run it.

A request for proposals for a market research consultant issued by CBU recently closed and Zhangs team is currently reviewing the proposals received. It asked for proposals to outline how the consultant would go about understanding and marketing the technology, from lab to market through the successful negotiation of a licence.

Zhang said they are now evaluating the best way to commercialize the technology.

Were looking for different industry partners so that we can do further development of specific products or applications for this to meet different needs, he said. For example, we work with environmental remediation companies, we work with landfill leachate, we work on pharmaceutical wastewater. We want to find industry partners to work on further development.

Its hoped the consultant that they hire will assist in finding those partners. A prototype has been developed.

The ideal starting industry level would be 3,000 litres a day, were about halfway there already, were at about 1,500 litres a day," said Andrew Carrier, who works closely with Zhang.

Carrier noted the technology also works in flows, so you dont need a large quantity of contaminated water to make use of it, and it doesnt take up much physical space. They want the technology to be accessible to as many people who can make use of it as possible, he added.

Its easy to put into a remote location without having to invest much capital, Carrier said.

Zhang noted the technology also doesnt generate any sort of secondary waste as a result of its water treatment.

Zhangs work has been supported by the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, Innovacorp, Springboard Innovation Mobilization program, Nova Scotia Lands as well as CBU.


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