Membrane processing of urine into drinking water (University of Ghent, Belgium)

  • KaiMikkel
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Membrane processing of urine into drinking water (University of Ghent, Belgium)

Looking around the forum, I wasn't able to locate any mention of the following from Belgium:

www.deccanchronicle.com/lifestyle/health...m-urine-machine.html

"Belgian scientists create machine to turn urine into drinkable water"

Is anyone familiar with this technology or project?

Kai Mikkel Førlie

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  • muench
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Re: Membrane processing of urine into drinking water

It's the first time I've heard about it.

Isn't the first sentence funny:

A team of scientists at a Belgian university say they have created a machine that turns urine into drinkable water and fertilizer using solar energy, a technique which could be applied in rural areas and developing countries.

I mean, why do people always assume that their technology would be so easily applicable for developing countries...?
And: why would you bother to make drinking water from urine unless you're in a space shuttle or perhaps on a boat a long way from land?

The article says:

The urine is collected in a big tank, heated in a solar-powered boiler before passing through the membrane where the water is recovered and nutrients such as potassium, nitrogen and phosphorus are separated.

Would be nice if someone could follow up on it and invite the researchers to tell us more about this?

Regards,
Elisabeth

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Re: Membrane processing of urine into drinking water

What comes to my mind immediately is that if this a reasonably cheap technology and the nutrients are recovered in a plant-available form, this could be the solution for mass events in developed countries as well. Imagine the public dry toilets that turn your pee into water and nutrients on-site, making the transport and reuse of the nurtients a lot cheaper and the water could be used on site. No more hauling human produced liquids to expensive processing plants! I would also be very interested in hearing more about this if possible!
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Re: Membrane processing of urine into drinking water

I reached out to one of the researchers involved. Here's hoping he acquiesces to my request to join the forum and provide us all more information.

Kai Mikkel Førlie

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Re: Membrane processing of urine into drinking water (University of Ghent, Belgium)

Hello all,

I'm just a new member of the SuSanA forum, and I've been around looking at what kind of work is being done. Very interesting indeed, and we are just a new player in this world. I'm sorry we didn't come here first, but the last few weeks have been very busy answering media requests and so on. About me: I am ir. Sebastiaan Derese, a PhD student in Bioscience engineering (environmental technology) at Ghent University since August 2013. Our team further consists of various MSc. students (who write their theses on our project) and my supervisor, prof. dr. ir. Arne R.D. Verliefde. Though this is the core, we have a lot of people involved for small tasks, and as such we have quite a bit of scientific and non-scientific input.

The project, which we like to call SATURN (Solar-Assisted Treatment of Urine with Recovery of Nutrients) is aimed at recovering the majority of fertilizer value in urine, but only through use of 'simple', energy-efficient and robust technology. The project was started in August 2013 when I received a personal grant to investigate a few techniques towards nutrient recovery from human urine. Since then, we've been (primarily) doing lab tests, which have been quite successful and led to a pilot trial at the Ghent Festival. There, we received a lot of media attention with the cross-over between the SATURN project and the Sewer To Brewer project, in which the goal is to use recovered water from wastewater into a beer (both as a statement - it can be done - as well as improving the trust in wastewater treatment and circular water cycles). Indeed: we were able to recover very high quality water directly from urine for beer production. More water is needed to start up a batch of 'urine beer', but that is out of the question here.

I cannot disclose too much of the science behind the SATURN project, unfortunately. We do have some partnerships running under NDA. What I can tell you is that we try and aim for selective nutrient recovery (N, P, K, S...) from urine (without inclusion of pathogens/pharmaceuticals) as well as high-quality water recovery with the only energy input being solar heat (so no PV panels). Due to the 'ease of operation' and modularity of the technique, it is possible to have both a 'high-tech' and 'low-tech' version, allowing this technique to be used stand-alone in festivals and in large buildings, as well as opening perspectives for developing countries. As you point out, Elisabeth, the situation there is infinitely more complex, which is why we're looking for grants to explore the possibilities, and start a project in which we start from scratch and design the system as such that it could work for rural communities. However, I do not doubt the fact that there will be people with a lot more field experience here (we do also have running projects in South Africa, so we're not complete idiots either), whom I'm very willing to exchange with. For us, the goal is to get to implementation of this technology in a broad context, if it is indeed a competitor/successor of existing technology. To do that, we need funding, partners and investors. The media attention helped quite a bit achieving this.

In any case, I welcome any questions, suggestions and remarks, and hope to disclose a bit more soon.

Please contact me and my supervisor through This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

All the best, good luck in your endeavours,
Sebastiaan
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Re: Membrane processing of urine into drinking water (University of Ghent, Belgium)

Dear Sebastiaan,

Thanks for the detailed description of your project, much appreciated!

I have a few questions:
You said:

I cannot disclose too much of the science behind the SATURN project, unfortunately. We do have some partnerships running under NDA.

Does the SATURN project (Solar-Assisted Treatment of Urine with Recovery of Nutrients) still have funding now or has the funding finished? You mentioned that funding started in 2013 but I didn't see further information on funding?
NDA means non-disclosure agreement? May I ask who the partners are, or at least what kind of partners?
I am trying to understand which private businesses would have an interest in this and why?

Could you tell us a bit more about your activities in South Africa? We have many projects and people from South Africa on this forum so perhaps it's possible to make some connections between people this way.

Thanks a lot.

Kind regards,
Elisabeth

++++++
A related discussion is here: forum.susana.org/173-urine-diversion-sys...nal-udt-module#22263

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

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This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Twitter: @EvMuench
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