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06. Safe fragrances
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03. Silver as high-tech material
02. Micro needle transmits medications and light
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12. An eye on space hazards
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02. Magnet making bacteria
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12. Ultrasound in water
11. Projected touchscreen
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04. Nuclear hazard
03. Clearing “sewer soap”
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12. Human powered water transport
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12 Bacteria in agriculture and industry
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Vol. 6, No. 3, March 31, 2011
ISSN 1932-3018

Clearing "sewer soap"
Positioning this technology in the
Functionality Grid
Reformatted from: Van Wyk, Rias J: Technology - A Unifying Code, 2004, SMG, Cape Town, p.34. Based on: Ropohl, Gunter: Eine Systemtheorie der Technik, 1979, Carl Hanser Verlag, Munich and Vienna, p.178.
This Newsbrief deals with the interruption of fluid flow in sewers. More particularly it deals with the action of unintended "sewer soap". In terms of the Atlas of Technological Megatrends, it is concerned with the functionality of matter transportation.
Infrastructure problems have been documented for many reticulation systems and other networks in the infrastructure. These include:
  • Electricity grids
  • Roads and bridges
  • Fresh water supplies
Now a problem has been identified in sewers. It concerns the build-up of hardened sludge in the wastewater-systems of many cities.
The sludge consists of fats, oils and grease (FOG) that are apparently acted upon by calcium. This creates a fatty acid salt, in other words the equivalent of 'soap'. This build-up is responsible for about 20% of sanitary sewer overflows in the nation (Weise, E. 2011, USA Today April 28, p. 6B.) The build-up is "fairly dense and hard" and requires high pressure water or cutting heads to slice through it.
At this stage sewer engineers are not quite sure of the origins of the build-up. Domestic soap uses potassium or sodium mixed with fat, but it is also possible to reach a similar chemical composition with calcium. Calcium is present in human urine but also leaches from aging concrete pipes. At present methods of prevention are aimed at reducing the discharge of fats and oils into the sewer system.
This is an example of a technological need caused by the demands of an aging infrastructure. Technology explorers should be aware of similar needs arising in other infrastructural systems.

© Rias J. van Wyk, 2013. Editor.