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Vol. 7, No. 11. November 30, 2012
ISSN 1932-3018

Water purification through freezing
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 advances in the purification of large quantities of contaminated water. It presents the case for freezing as opposed to more conventional methods. In terms of the Atlas of Technology it is concerned with the processing of matter (M).
Faced with a shortage of water and the increased incidence of contamination, technology specialists are exploring new ways of purification. In the South African mining industry the need for purification has become critical. Water flows into disused mines and becomes contaminated by the residues of mining chemicals. This contaminated water accumulates and eventually finds its ways into aquifers and fresh water sources.
Conventional treatment involves pumping the contaminated water into evaporation ponds. Residues solidify into solid waste of no particular commercial value. The cost of the process is in the region of USD 2.5 per cubic meter.
Prof. Alison Lewis and a team from the University of Cape Town's Department of Chemical Engineering reports on a new approach - freezing the contaminated water. This causes the dissolved impurities to crystallize out as discrete materials that can be extracted and sold. Estimated cost, based on laboratory experience, is about USD 1.00 per cubic meter. [Bugan, D. (2009) "New treatment freezes acid mine water" AMD in SA, February 1.]
The process is in the laboratory phase and, on the NASA nine point scale, is at a technology readiness level (TRL) of 4. Technology explorers should monitor the proliferation of the purification process, and its use in other fields of application.

© Rias J. van Wyk, 2013. Editor.