A sustainable solution to secure water supplies

As the world’s population continues to increaseand the effects of climate change become more severe, stress on existing naturalwater supplieswill escalate.Whilst water covers most ofEarth’s surface, notallthe water available is fresh or drinkable. There are many parts of the world currently experiencingwater shortagesanddroughtconditionscombinedwith water supplies that are unfit for human consumption.

Alternativewater sourcesare neededto ensurewater qualityforcommunities, industryand agricultureis sustainable.Water treatmentandseawater desalinationcan provide an alternate source of drinkingwaterbyreducingwatercontamination andremoving salt and impuritiesto produce fresh water.

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Due to energy consumption, converting sea or brackish water into potable water is more costly than obtaining fresh water from surface water, water recyclingor water conservation. However, these alternatives are not always available.

We are playing a key role in protecting and increasing one of Australia’s most valuable resources by developing several new treatment technologies that use renewable energy and are environmentally friendly and inexpensive, including techniques for:

  • seawater desalination
  • water treatment processes and wastewater sterilisation
  • selective removal of heavy metals from industrial wastewater
  • efficient concentration of wastewater slimes to recycle water
  • the prevention of water cavitation to enablemuch cheaper transport.

Other new techniques like high-temperature reactions achieved in low-temperature water and low energy desalination are also being developed.

Competitive advantage

We've developed several new water technologies based on improved desalination processes and efficient wastewater treatment processes. We have also produced several international Patent Cooperation Treaty applications and submitted several provisional patent applications, which haveled to the establishment of new local companies: ‘Breakthrough Technologies’ and ‘Breakthrough Water Technologies’.

We've also produced many international journal articles. During this time Professor Barry Ninham AO FAA, who works closely with our group, was awarded the Academy of Sciences’ 2017 Matthew Flinders Medal.

Successful applications

We have several new technologies that are expected to have widespread applications for both community and industrial development in Australia and overseas including:

  • propeller cavitation prevention
  • copper ion removal from mining wastewater, funded by Newcrest Mining
  • carbon dioxide (CO2) industrial wastewater sterilisation applied to piggeries funded by Australia Pork Ltd.
  • fire suppressant coatings - using solar energy to produce carbon fibres and a new coating to prevent ember attack during bushfires
  • improved seawater desalination processes aimed at improving energy efficiency.

We have successfully extended the hot air bubble process to a range of other gases, which are shown to offer a range of different properties. For example, CO2 can sterilise solutes (even viruses) even at low temperatures. Hot oxygen (O2) bubbles can oxidise solutes and can kill bacterial cells. We have also discovered hot helium (He) bubbles can reduce the hydrogen (H) bonding in seawater, enhancing vaporisation.

We also have two current externally funded post-doctoral positions and are in negotiations with a commercial group interested in developing the fire suppressant technology.

    • R. Wei, R. M. Pashley,‘.’Desalination479, 114329 (2020).

    • M.Taseidifar, A. G. Sanchis, R. M. Pashley and B.W. Ninham,‘.’,Substantia3(2), 11-17 (2019).

    • M.Taseidifar, M.Ziaee, R. M. Pashley and B.W. Ninham,‘.’,J. Environ. Chem. Eng. 7, 103263, (2019).

    • A. Garrido, R.M. Pashley and B.W. Ninham,‘.’,NPJ Clean Water(2:5, 2019).

    • F.Makavipour, R.M. Pashley and A.F.M.MokhlesurRahman,‘.’,Global Challenges.3(3), 1-8 (2019).

    • R.M.Pashley, J.J. Antony and M.Taseidifar,‘The prevention of fluid cavitation’,PCT application Published 25 October 2018, WO 2018/191790 A1.

    • F.Makavipour, M.Taseidifar, R.M Pashley and Rahman A.F. M.Mohklesur.,.’ PCT/AU2017/051145.

    • R.M. Pashley, A. S. Garrido and B.W. Ninham,‘Sterilization method’,PCT: Published: WO 2019/104383 A1.6 June 2019.

    • R.M. Pashley, M.Taseidifarand T.Gettongsong,‘Resin forDesalinationand Process of Regeneration’,PCT: WO 2020/118371 A1. 18 June 2020.

Research projects

  • Heavy metal ion removal from mining wastewater
  • Improved ion-exchange desalination technology
  • Novel de-watering process for mining wastewater slime treatment
  • Propeller cavitation prevention
  • Developing building coatings for protection against bushfire ember attack
  • Hot CO2 bubbling for water sterilisation
  • Novel solar array for high-temperature processes

Our researchers