Copy
Researchers find new, inexpensive way to clean water from oil sands production
VIEW EMAIL IN BROWSER
PRESS RELEASE

Researchers find new, inexpensive way to clean water from oil sands production

Monday, November 23, 2015

Researchers have developed a process to remove contaminants from oil sands wastewater using only sunlight and nanoparticles that is more effective and inexpensive than conventional treatment methods.

Frank Gu, a professor in the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Waterloo and Canada Research Chair in Nanotechnology Engineering, is the senior researcher on the team that was the first to find that photocatalysis — a chemical reaction that involves the absorption of light by nanoparticles — can completely eliminate naphthenic acids in oil sands wastewater, and within hours. Naphthenic acids pose a threat to ecology and human health. Water in tailing ponds left to biodegrade naturally in the environment still contains these contaminants decades later.

“With about a billion tonnes of water stored in ponds in Alberta, removing naphthenic acids is one of the largest environmental challenges in Canada,” said Tim Leshuk, a PhD candidate in chemical engineering at Waterloo. He is the lead author of this paper and a recipient of the prestigious Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship. “Conventional treatments people have tried either haven’t worked or if they have worked they’ve been far too impractical or expensive to solve the size of the problem. Waterloo’s technology is the first step of what looks like a very practical and green treatment method.” 
Tim Leshuk, University of Waterloo. (Photo credit: Light Imaging)
Unlike treating polluted water with chlorine or membrane filtering, the Waterloo technology is energy-efficient and relatively inexpensive. Nanoparticles become extremely reactive when exposed to sunlight and break down the persistent pollutants in their individual atoms, completely removing them from the water. This treatment depends on only sunlight for energy, and the nanoparticles can be recovered and reused indefinitely.

Next steps for the Waterloo research include ensuring that the treated water meets all of the objectives Canadian environmental legislation and regulations required to ensure it can be safely discharged from sources larger than the samples, such as tailing ponds.

Kerry Peru and John Headley, research scientists from Environment Canada, are co-authors of the paper, which appears in the latest issue of the journal Chemosphere
MEDIA CONTACT | Pamela Smyth
519-888-4777 | @uwaterloonews | uwaterloo.ca/news

Attention broadcasters: Waterloo has facilities to provide broadcast quality audio and video feeds with a double-ender studio. Please contact us for more information.
Facebook
Twitter
LinkedIn
YouTube
Website
Email
chevrons

  About the University of Waterloo


In just half a century, the University of Waterloo, located at the heart of Canada's technology hub, has become one of Canada's leading comprehensive universities with 35,000 full- and part-time students in undergraduate and graduate programs. A globally focused institution, celebrated as Canada’s most innovative university for 24 consecutive years, Waterloo is home to the world's largest post-secondary co-operative education program and encourages enterprising partnerships in learning, research and discovery. In the next decade, the university is committed to building a better future for Canada and the world by championing innovation and collaboration to create solutions relevant to the needs of today and tomorrow. For more information about Waterloo, please visit uwaterloo.ca.
unsubscribe from this list    update subscription preferences 
Copyright © 2015 University of Waterloo, All rights reserved.