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Solar-powered nanofilters could help clean contaminated waterways

Using the same mechanism that enables some bacteria to shrug off powerful antibiotics, scientists have developed solar-powered nanofilters that remove antibiotics from the water in lakes and rivers twice as efficiently as the best existing technology. Their report appeared in American Chemical Society's journal Nano Letters.

David Wendell and Vikram Kapoor explained that antibiotics from toilets and other sources find their way into lakes and rivers, with traces appearing in 80% of waterways. Those antibiotics foster emergence of new antibiotic-resistant bacteria, while harming beneficial microbes in ways that can degrade aquatic environments and food chains. Filters containing activated carbon can remove antibiotics from effluent at municipal sewage treatment plants, before its release into waterways. But activated carbon is far from perfect. So the scientists looked for a better technology.

They describe development and successful laboratory testing of capsule-like "vesicles" containing the very mechanism that enables bacteria to survive doses of antibiotics. This system pumps antibiotics out of bacterial cells before any damage can occur. Wendell and Kapoor turned it around, however, so that the system pumps antibiotics into the vesicles. That way, they can be collected and recycled or shipped for disposal. In addition to the pump, the vesicles contain a propulsion system driven by sunlight. The pump system could be adapted to clean hormones, heavy metals and other undesirable materials from water, the scientists state.

Alberta invests $10m in major water research programmes

Alberta Innovates - Energy and Environment Solutions (AI-EES) announced the selection of 18 research projects in support of safe, secure drinking water; healthy aquatic ecosystems; and reliable, quality water supplies for a sustainable economy.

The projects selected for the Water Resource Sustainability Program will receive up to $1.5 million each to a total investment of $10 million in support of the Government of Alberta's "Water for Life" strategy.

The 18 research projects range from understanding perceptions about water quality in rural Alberta to collaboration between local and international researchers who will work together to develop a monitoring scheme for arsenic in rural Alberta's well water to validating reclamation targets, design criteria and policy for sustainable wetland habitat.

The top global water research institutes

Two Singapore universities top the world in water research while a set of geographically widespread players specialize in key subsets of the water space as water efficiency becomes global priority. The National University of Singapore and Nanyang Technological University took the top two spots, respectively, in a ranking of the top global water research institutes by Lux Research. Both focus mostly on desalination, reuse and membranes, the latter two topping global agendas as well.

The Top 10 water research institutes in Lux's rankings, along with their areas of specialization, are:

1. National University of Singapore, Singapore; Membranes, desalination and reuse

2. Nanyang Technological University, Singapore; Membranes, desalination and reuse

3. Delft University, Netherlands; Infrastructure, drinking water and wastewater

4. University of California Davis, U.S.; Drinking water and reuse

5. Wageningen University, Netherlands; Nutrient recovery and infrastructure

6. Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Switzerland; Drinking water and infrastructure

7. Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology, South Korea; Desalination

8. Penn State University, U.S.; Membranes

9. Tsing Hua University, China; Drinking water, wastewater and reuse

10. University of Waterloo, Canada; Infrastructure

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