An energy-efficient method of recovering economically valuable minerals and materials from wastewater has been developed by researchers at VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland.
In addition to the new approach to recovering resources from industrial wastewater, the researchers also developed new ‘rapid tools’ for the identification of various environmental pollutants.
The new work makes the point that the cleaning and treatment of wastewater can provide more than just clean water, but can also be used as a means for procuring valuable resources — becoming a process that does not consume net energy or cause extra costs.
“Wastewater treatment and waste treatment have mainly been implemented by legal necessity. Now we should modify our way of thinking so that we would be able to regard waste disposal sites and purification plants as sources or raw materials and energy. In the near future, technology has been refined far enough to allow such waste treatment plants to operate on their own,” states Mona Arnold, Principal Researcher at VTT.
The press release from VTT provides more:
VTT has developed extraction methods for metals and minerals from waste materials. Biological extraction methods by which metals are recovered from mining, metal and recycling industry waste by utilising microbes and chemical reactions are under testing stages and they are forcasted for market uptake within the next few years.
In addition, VTT researchers developed an enzyme-assisted method by which feed products can be produced from side streams deriving from turnip rape processing in (the) food industry.
Also, VTT developed intelligent membrane materials, reducing the need of purification, for filtration purposes. Membrane solutions using only small amounts of energy were developed for water treatment purposes. VTT has collaborated with a university in Singapore to develop a method based on forward osmosis technology, by which metals and biocomponents can be recovered and concentrated from industrial process waters.
VTT also developed the previously mentioned new sensor technology — which can rapidly detect the presence of pollutants, including toxins from cyanobacteria, and also phenolic, hormone-like compounds. This technology is expected to be ready or production use within only a couple of years.