Water Engineering – tackling the global water challenge

Some 35% of the world's population, most of whom live in rural communities, lack access to either improved sanitation or safe drinking water. The western, centralised model for water supply and treatment is too energy and capital-intensive to deliver sustainable solutions in these countries. 

Professor Bill Sloan and his team will harness the bioprocessing power of microorganisms to deliver clean drinking water and treat wastewater in rural communities using low-energy, sustainable, off-grid technologies.  

He said: “I have spent much of my career to-date researching the fundamentals of engineering biology in water systems. A suite of emerging technologies now presents me with the opportunity of applying the knowledge I have gained in new ways that will help to deliver clean water and sanitation to rural communities. We intend to work in collaboration with global partners to develop new off-grid water technologies for remote communities from the Scottish islands to tropical rainforests.” 

Working from the Advanced Research Centre will ensure Professor Sloan and his team have proximity to a range of disciplines which will help him achieve this ambitious goal. 

The team will be working with biomedical engineers who have developed low-cost point-of-use sensors to monitor the biology and chemistry of distributed off-grid water biotechnologies, and with chemists applying ideas from digital chemistry to bioremediation. They will collaborate with social and political scientists through demonstrators and workshops to explore responsible and acceptable solutions. 

The goal, as Professor Sloan says “is a co-located cohort of academics, business development professionals, and research and development facilities, that will have international reach.”