Research project about faecal sludge drying, at the Pollution Research Group (South Africa)

  • SeptienS
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Research project about faecal sludge drying, at the Pollution Research Group (South Africa)

Title of project:
Characterization of faecal material behavior during drying

Name of lead organization:
Pollution Research Group (University KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa)

Project leader:
Dr. Santiago Septien Stringel (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

Start and end date:
01 January 2017 - 31 October 2018

Grant Type:
Transformative Technologies through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Grant size:
USD 250,000

Rationale of the project:
Drying is a relevant unit operation during faecal sludge processing. It allows the removal of moisture from the fecal matter, so making it a more suitable biofuel and increasing the efficiency of combustion. The removal of moisture leads to a loss of weight and shrinkage of the faecal matter, which facilitates its handling and reduces the costs associated to transport. Drying also leads to the deactivation of pathogens, leading to a safer product that can be handled with reduced infection risks.
The design of the treatment equipment needs to consider drying, critical step that requires to be mastered in order to not compromise the process performance. For example, drying is integral part of sanitation technologies based on the thermochemical conversion of faecal sludge, such as some reinvented toilets and treatment plants. In these units, the control of drying is very important to avoid failure and achieve high efficiencies.
During the transformative technologies portfolio meeting in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (25 – 29 July 2016, Seattle), one of the main gaps identified was the lack of data on faecal sludge drying (and efficient sharing). The practitioners have to face several challenges in the development and implementation of technologies relying on drying, without the possibility to get support from the literature. In order to fill in this gap, the Pollution Research Group (PRG), at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (Durban, South Africa), was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in order to carry out a research project for the understanding and characterization of faecal sludge drying. The main beneficiaries from this project will be all sanitation practitioners, technologists and scientists who are involved in the development, implementation and operation of drying technologies.

Aim and scope of research:
The aim of the project is to provide, through research, useful data and knowledge to the sanitation practitioners that could assist to overcome their technological gaps. The outcomes from the project will lead to the development of guidelines of best practices, which could culminate in the redaction of an engineering handbook on fecal sludge drying.
The first stage of the project consists in determining the landscape of faecal sludge drying so as to identify the main gaps and select the areas of more interest where the research should be oriented. This landscape study is conducted by a literature survey and direct communication with the sanitation practitioners. Fallowing the outcomes from the landscape study, an experimental work will be performed to study different aspect from faecal sludge drying. Important emphasis will be brought to the diffusion of the data and knowledge generated from this project. The diffusion of the information will be done by classical means (publication of papers in peer-review journals, presentation in conferences, infographics) and by interactive platforms (organization of web seminars and a workshop, among other options).

Partners:
The research project will be done in collaboration with Swansea University and Cranfield University. This partnership combines the complementary expertise of the three institutions: expertise in faecal sludge characterization at the PRG; expertise in material science characterization in Swansea University; expertise in the thermochemical conversion of faecal sludge in Cranfield University.
This project intends to enhance the participation of other institutions in the project, which can be done at different levels. They can share their data and observations relative to their experience with drying, describe their specific issues and challenges to overcome, and ask for advices or consulting. They can also be more actively involved in the project by participation in collaborative research.
If you are interested to participate in the project, please contact the project leader.


Current status:
The landscape study has enabled to the identification of the areas of research for the project:
- Study of the rheological and slickness properties of faecal sludge during drying, which is a critical parameter for sludge conveying and to avoid fouling in the drier;
- Study of the morphological evolution of faecal sludge during drying, as this has an impact in the design and performance of the drier;
- Characterization of the volatile compounds released during drying, in particular olfactory compounds, for odor management pruposes;
- Determination of the types of moisture in faecal sludge and their energy of vaporization, which is useful information for the selection of the drying method and the operating parameters;
- Determination of the thermal and radiative properties of faecal sludge, which are important designing parameters;
- Development of on-site moisture content measurement instruments;
- Quantification of the relationship between thermal drying and pasteurization.

A post-doctorate fellowship was recruited to conduct the research from the project. Actually, he is in the process to get his South Africa immigration permit.
A research assistant, who has just graduated from her Master degree, was hired for a period of a few months, in order to study faecal sludge pasteurization during drying. For the moment, she has carried out successfully experiments to study the deactivation of Ascaris eggs as a function of temperature. The results will lead to the development of a kinetic equation to compute the die-off rate of Ascaris eggs as a function of temperature. As Ascaris is usually employed as an indicator of pasteurization, this kinetic equation could predict when faecal sludge will be pasteurized during drying at given thermal conditions, and then it could be used as a tool for the design and operation of driers.

Main challenges / frustration:
The main frustrations have been issued from the delays of the post-doctorate hiring process and the bureaucratic work to obtain the South African immigration permit.

Dr. Santiago Septien Stringel
* This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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+27312601122
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Re: Research project about faecal sludge drying, at the Pollution Research Group (South Africa)

Dear Santiago,

Thanks for providing this information on a very interesting and useful research project on faecal sludge drying!

You said that:

The diffusion of the information will be done by classical means (publication of papers in peer-review journals, presentation in conferences, infographics) and by interactive platforms (organization of web seminars and a workshop, among other options).


Have you thought about how you could use the SuSanA communication channels to add to your mix of diffusion and dissemination strategy? I think using the forum regularly to update and interact with members would be super. And if you do peer-review papers, are you planning to make them all open access? That would be important (and is anyway a requirement of the Gates Foundation Open Access Policy for research that they fund).

Another thing you could think about is adding information to the growing body of knowledge on sanitation topics on Wikipedia. I can help you with that.
E.g. take a look at the Wikipedia article on fecal sludge management and think how easily you could improve it:
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fecal_sludge_management

Relevant could also be the article on sewage sludge treatment: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sewage_sludge_treatment

And the one on drying in general: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drying

Aactually a while ago, I added a paragraph there but it is still missing a good reference. Which one would you recommend? Perhaps the Eawag book on FSM? ( www.susana.org/en/resources/library/details/2100 )

Sludges and fecal materials from sanitation processes[edit | edit source]
In the area of sanitation, drying of sewage sludge from sewage treatment plants, fecal sludge or feces collected in urine-diverting dry toilets (UDDT) is a common method to achieve pathogen kill, as pathogens can only tolerate a certain dryness level. In addition, drying is required as a process step if the excreta based materials are meant to be incinerated.

(now that I re-read what I wrote there, I actually find it too complicated; needs to be simplified for lay persons)

And my last question: how is this research related to the LaDePa process which seems to utilise drying already now before the results from the research on drying is available? Are you intending to optimise the LaDePa process, based on your research? We've heard about it here on the forum:
forum.susana.org/forum/categories/280-fa...-in-ethekwini-durban

Regards,
Elisabeth

Community manager and chief moderator of this forum via SEI project ( www.susana.org/en/resources/projects/details/127 )

Dr. Elisabeth von Muench
Independent consultant in Frankfurt, Germany
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Twitter: @EvMuench
Sanitation Wikipedia project leader: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:WikiProject_Sanitation
E-mail us to get involved: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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  • SeptienS
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Re: Research project about faecal sludge drying, at the Pollution Research Group (South Africa)

Dear Elizabeth,

Thanks a lot for the interest that you have shown on my post! I will try to respond to your questions the most accurate possible.

Concerning your first set of questions, I do consider to use SuSana as a platform to disseminate the outcomes of the project. I just have to learn how to properly use it in order to use all the potential of the website.

All the papers related to this project are subjected to Gates Foundation publication policies, so they will be open access. Note that Gates Foundation pays the open access option for publication in conventional peer-review journals.

For sure, I will consider to contribute to add information in Wikipedia in a future when I get more knowledge about fecal sludge drying.

I don't have in mind any specific reference for your paragraph. It may not need a reference, as it states a general knowledge that is already well accepted. Otherwise, you can take a look at the book of Faecal Sludge Management, or you can search references from publications in the field of sewage or food drying. They have been there a lot of study that show the efficacy of drying for pathogen removal.

The investigation from this project does not target any specific drying technology and wants to make benefit from the research to all practitioners involved in any type of drying. So, the research to conduct is not directly related to LaDePa, but hopefully it will give useful keys of faecal sludge drying understanding that will lead to the optimization of the process.

Please don't hesitate to contact me if you have further questions.

Kind regards,
Santiago

Dr. Santiago Septien Stringel
* This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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