New Invention Heading to South Africa to Generate Power and Clean Water Using Untapped Source
University of South Florida engineers helping solve world’s water and sanitation crisis
A team of researchers from the University of South Florida College of Engineering is conducting its final testing in preparation to ship its new and improved NEWgenerator to Durban, South Africa. It leaves Tampa via air freight in mid-March and will be installed in April. The technology generates nutrients, energy and water by safely recovering them from wastewater containing fecal organic matter and urine.
The NEWgenerator will be placed in an informal settlement to accompany sanitation facilities that have toilets, showers and sinks. As in many cities around the world, ongoing rapid, unplanned urbanization has placed a major strain on water and sewer systems. With assistance from local partners, the NEWgenerator will undergo rigorous engineering field testing to demonstrate off-grid water recycling, potentially helping facilities operate without being hooked up to sewer lines.
The NEWgenerator mimics a miniature wastewater treatment plant without the usual energy-intensive aeration tank that blows air to break down pollutants and the plethora of chemicals. By harnessing an army of anaerobic microorganisms, the process eliminates the need for oxygen, causing organic material to turn into biogas. Biogas is a renewable form of energy, allowing the NEWgenerator to generate electricity and run completely on its own when coupled with solar panels.
The NEWgenerator has a multistage disinfection process. First, a fine-pore microscopic membrane filter traps bacteria and viruses. Then, the clean water that passes through is disinfected with chlorine, similar to municipal drinking water. The recycled water can be used for toilet flushing in the sanitation facilities, thereby drastically cutting down on water demand, especially during times of drought. The water can also be used for irrigation.
Worldwide, community gardens are often found throughout unplanned settlements near CABs. However, plant growth is hard to sustain without fertilizer. Nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus) safely recovered with the NEWgenerator will help make these community gardens vibrant by providing the fertilizers needed. This not only creates an urban greenspace, but potential food source and financial asset as well.