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Smouldering Solutions for Resource Recovery from Wastewater Streams

   Hydro Nation Scholars Programme

About the Project

Around 30% of global accessible freshwater is used by industry and municipalities, and only 10% of the resulting wastewater is treated. Even a robust treatment network – like Scotland’s – cannot adequately protect freshwater, as SEPA revealed in 2019 that only 66% of Scottish waterbodies met the threshold for “good” health. Many sources of wastewater contain harmful substances that can cause pollution if discharged; however, these discharges are also lost economic opportunities. This project aims to develop robust characterisation methods for wastewater streams, apply a novel treatment and recovery technology to these wastes, and frame the project broadly in life cycle analysis.

Adaptation of wastewater treatment processes to reclaim valuable resources can integrate these processes into circular economies. Municipal wastewater treatment processes are natural aggregation points for phosphorous, as are farm animal, abattoir, and food and drink wastes. Textile wastewaters contain potentially toxic elements such as chromium, lead, cadmium, zinc as well as mercury, arsenic and other organometallics such as dyes. Pharmaceutical wastewaters contain valuable products, raw materials, and process by-products. These processes serve as sinks for a wide range of substances of value alongside potentially hazardous substances that may be barriers to safe reclamation. Inadequate characterisation of wastewater streams before and after treatment compounds these problems. Standard chemical analysis techniques require a priori knowledge of substances of interest to determine and quantify their presence. Otherwise, harmful substances go undetected, and likely untreated, while substances of value, detected or undetected, may not be reclaimed. Smouldering as a wastewater treatment process has shown great promise to reclaim substances of value, destroy harmful pathogens, and destroy or sequester harmful chemical substances through its treatment conditions. These conditions can be manipulated to suit treatment objectives; however, inadequate characterisation of the pollutant load can lead to inadequate selection of operating conditions.

This project aims to advance the recovery of valuable elements and nutrients from a wide range of wastewater treatment processes. The specific objectives of this project are:

(1) Develop screening methods for organic and inorganic substances in wastes and wastewater sludges.

(2) Identify candidate wastes and wastewater sludges to evaluate for smouldering resource recovery.

(3) Develop a life cycle assessment approach to quantify impacts of smouldering resource recovery; and

(4) Optimise one candidate material for resource recovery and contaminant management.

This discipline-hopping project will combine laboratory and field work with modelling. The supervisory team supporting this Hydro Nation Scholar bring expertise in smouldering and contaminant fate and transport (Switzer); environmental analytical chemistry (Zhang); life cycle assessment (Giesekam), and smouldering optimisation (Rashwan). 

Funding Notes

The Hydro Nation Scholars Programme is an open competition for PhD Scholars to undertake approved projects, hosted within Scottish Universities and Research Institutes. This project will be hosted by the University of Strathclyde. Full funding is available from the Scottish Government (to host institutions via the Scottish Funding Council). The funding available will be in line with the UKRI doctoral stipend levels and indicative fees. Applicants should have a first-class honours degree in a relevant subject or a 2.1 honours degree plus Masters (or equivalent). Shortlisted candidates will be interviewed on 26th or 27th January 2023

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