UVic chemist partners with tech firm to clean up industrial wastewater

The discharge of ammonia from industrial wastewater is an increasing concern for regulatory authorities because of the threat it poses to aquatic ecosystems. Now, a University of Victoria chemist and a Vancouver-based technology firm are teaming up to find a solution using innovative nanomaterial technologies.

The partnership between UVic chemist Frank van Veggel and Axine Water Technologies is one of three collaborations to receive a 2017 British Columbia Innovation Council (BCIC) Ignite Award, announced last month. The award—worth $300, 000—goes to projects that demonstrate the potential to drive BC’s economy through the advancement of BC technology and market-driven innovation.

In this project, Van Veggel will use his knowledge of nanomaterials – miniscule structures less than 10 times smaller than a speck of dust – to develop an electro-catalyst that will improve the ability of ammonia to be safely, quickly and efficiently removed from Axine’s patented industrial wastewater treatment systems. It addresses the need for industrial manufacturers to comply with environmental regulations.

At low concentrations ammonia is essential to the environment, supplying essential nitrogen to plants and bacteria. But at the high concentrations produced by manmade sources—such as electronics, pharmaceuticals and food production—it is caustic and hazardous to human health and to freshwater environments.

Axine modules allow wastewater to be dealt with where it’s produced. With a more efficient catalyst, ammonia can be removed more quickly, cheaply and safely. Van Veggel’s expertise on nanoparticle synthesis will make these catalysts more efficient.

For more information on the BCIC awards, read the media release and watch the video.