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Thermofluidics successfully chlorinates borehole water containing less than 20mg/L of chloride ions to 3ppm with no added reagents
We have successfully completed a second UK trial of our novel PV-powered chlorinator. We were able to treat up to 225 litres per hour of “soft” borehole water to a free-chlorine concentration of 3ppm using solar power alone, on a rainy day in Devon, UK. The borehole water, normally used for cattle watering at Langley Farm in the Exe valley, contains only 16mg/L of chloride ions. This low chloride concentration is below that of approximately one third of water wells in the UPGro database; a publicly available resource covering over 400 wells distributed across Malawi, Ethiopia and Uganda. It is also more than 100 times less than the chloride levels encountered in our first “hard water” trials at our test well in Beckley, Oxfordshire in August 2022. The maximum “soft water” flow we were able to treat increased to at least 350 litres per hour at a lower target free chlorine concentration of 1.5ppm and it increases to over 2000 litres per hour at harder, higher-chloride sites.
Our Direct Contact Chlorinator (DCC) technology involves a novel approach to direct electrolysis of untreated groundwater, liberating naturally-present dissolved chlorides as free chlorine. This approach combines onsite chlorine production – without chemical feedstocks, including salt – and accurate chlorine dosing, into one seamless and fully-automated process. Alongside previous tests carried out, these latest tests also demonstrated that our approach is capable of treating water with rapidly varying flowrate and power availability. This is consistent with the varying power levels and flowrates associated with point-of-use treatment in off-grid/weak-grid public buildings, at community water sites, and in small piped-water networks in the global south. For even lower-chloride sites, we are working on a “Hypochlorite Generator Accessory (HGA)” which automatically dissolves and electrolyses crystalline salt from a salt-reservoir, and doses water to a settable target concentration on site. Whilst this accessory does require salt to be brought to sites, it avoids the need for expensive and short shelf-life chlorine products and skilled operator-intervention, providing a user-experience equivalent to the occasional “topping-up” of salt in a domestic dishwasher or water softener. This project draws on the latest generation C-programmable microcontrollers, expert inputs from Prof. Dan Rogers at Oxford University’s Energy and Power group, and our network of partners in the community water space around the world. It also sits in the context of rapidly decreasing photovoltaic module prices which is driving the African off-grid solar revolution more generally. This powerful combination can bring capabilities previously unthinkable below utility scales to distributed users off water and energy grids.
Our next challenge is to refine our approach to on-site calibration, which enables us to achieve a settable target chlorine concentration without need for baseline analysis – and turn our prototypes into a robust and user-friendly product. To do this, we will draw on the experience we’ve gained on a pipeline of novel off-grid water pump products, commercially available through our subsidiary Impact Pumps. Subject to funding, we anticipate having a DCC ready for field trials with our partners in southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa in Q2 2023.
Chlorination is by far the most common water sterilisation method used worldwide, and the only method providing residual protection against microbial contamination post-source. Post-source contamination is increasingly understood to be as significant a problem as contamination at source, particularly when water is collected in buckets or jerricans and carried to the home. However, its implementation is currently hindered by limited supply chains for chemical feedstocks, dependence on skilled operators, and routine service/maintenance requirements.
Our novel PV-chlorinator delivers treated water from a contaminated well with no brought-in chemicals for the first time.
Our novel PV-powered chlorinator has successfully treated contaminated groundwater from an old village well close to our R&D base in Oxford, UK, under a range of operational conditions, for the first time.
Our Direct Contact Chlorinator (DCC) technology involves a novel approach to direct electrolysis of untreated groundwater to liberate naturally-present dissolved chlorides as free chlorine. The tests, conducted entirely off-grid, involved treating well-water contaminated with coliforms including e-coli to a target free-chlorine concentration of 2.65ppm. This was done without adding any treatment chemicals or sourced-reagents. These tests also demonstrated that our approach is capable of treating water with rapidly varying flowrate and power availability, consistent with varying power levels and flowrates associated with point-of-use treatment in off-grid/weak-grid public buildings, at community water sites, and in small piped-water networks in the global south.
The trials further provided early verification of our approach to field-calibration (to achieve a target chlorine concentration without prior knowledge of water composition), and failure mode mitigation (predominantly to ensure that only safe water is delivered). Our 2.65ppm target was maintained to within to within 10% of the target value throughout the tests.
Our next challenge is to demonstrate this capability with a variety of groundwater sources in the UK, of significantly varying and unknown chemical solute composition, before packaging the technology up and shipping it out for field trials with our partners in southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Our desk-research indicates that this approach to chlorination is probably viable in approximately one third of water wells in the UPGro database; a publicly available resource covering over 400 wells distributed across Malawi, Ethiopia and Uganda.
We will soon begin work to be able to treat water at most of the two thirds of UPGro sites not suited to this approach, with a Hypochlorite Generator Accessory (HGA). The HGA will automatically treat source water using crystalline common salt as its only feedstock material.
Chlorination is by far the most common water sterilisation method used worldwide, and the only method providing residual protection against microbial contamination post-source. This is increasingly understood to be as significant as contamination at source, particularly when water is collected in buckets or jerricans and carried to the home. However, its implementation is currently hindered by limited supply chains for chemical feedstocks, dependence on skilled operators, and routine service/maintenance requirements.
First cast and machined production parts commissioned
We have agreed and commissioned toolmaking and pilot production for our first set of cast and machined production parts for our Impact Pump “Series 0” launch product. These will form part of the first Impact Pump product. This is due to be available in Kenya from late 2019 with rollout across East Africa during 2021.
Series 0 Impact Pump product engineering design complete
The end-to-end design of the Impact Pump “Series 0” launch product is complete and production quotations are being sourced. We are on schedule to launch our first product under the Impact Pumps brand in Kenya in late 2019. This coincides with our first million litres of water having been lifted in the field, directly improving the lives of rural communities through the provision of irrigation, drinking and sanitation services.
10,000hr accelerated tests complete
We have completed a number of accelerated ageing tests on a concept-design for our next generation of uDAHR prototype, that will be called the “Pre-Series 0” uDAHR. These included fatigue tests, corrosion tests, repeated dry-run tests and long-durations of operation in acidic silted wells with high chloride concentrations.
New >90% Impact Pump hydraulic efficiency record achieved in Bangladesh
A new efficiency record has been set by our Bangladeshi Team in collaboration with IDE. Badrul Alam, treadle pump pioneer and leader of IDE’s technical centre in Dhaka, and his team, recorded a best ever hydraulic efficiency of 92% from a Pre-Series 0 Impact Pump installed at 27m depth (24m to water) at Miton, near Dhaka. This was achieved using steel pipework. The pump was driven by an Ennos Sunlight pump, manufactured under license in India by Jain Irrigation. The team also recorded efficiencies close to 90% using PVC pipework in place of HDPE.
Mixed domestic and irrigation use of water raised at Seme, Kisumu province, Kenya, reported by community leaders
As our gamma-uDAHR field trials progress in Kenya and Bangladesh, unexpected usage patterns continue to emerge. Although very different in nature and requirements, the distinction between water pumping for irrigation and domestic use (drinking/cooking and sanitation) is not always cut and dry in the real world. We now know that our well in Seme, Kenya is providing around 160 people with water for domestic use during the peak of the dry season, whilst being used for irrigation at other times. The daily pumped volumes required are similar, but continuity of supply is now even more essential. So far, users are very happy with the service that the uDAHR offers, as according to community leaders, existing powered-options (helical sumbersibles and suction pumps lowered on platforms) would often already have failed in a sandy dug well of varying water depth such as this.
SF2-driven Impact Pump installed at GLAC primary school, Ahendu, Kenya, displacing bucket lifting and supplying pre-purified drinking water for more than 250 children and staff
Our Kenyan technical team managed by Futurepump Kenya have installed a Pre-Series 0 Impact Pump at GLAC primary school in Ahendu, Kisumu province, Kenya. This pump, driven by a Futurepump SF2, is providing an improved water supply for more than 250 children and staff from a water depth of 13m. Previously lifted by buckets, a key route for contamination of wells, the water is chlorinated prior to drinking.
Major East African distribution partner agrees to stock the Series 0 Impact Pump
Following an on-site demonstration to approximately 30 senior staff, and a successful 500 hour test result, we are pleased to announce that the Impact Pump has been selected for inclusion in the 2020 stock list of our main East African distribution partner. Our partner, who controls over 50% of the pump distribution market in East Africa, will take delivery of the first shipment of Impact Pumps via Mombasa in late 2019.
Wellcome Trust increases and extends Thermofluidics’ Translation Award to cover Impact Pump pilot launch and rollout across East Africa
We are delighted to be able to announce that the Wellcome Trust have agreed to a further funding package of £1.45M to cover toolmaking, pilot production and launch across 8 East African countries. The extended project will run until August 2021, bridging a critical funding gap between applied research and commercial-sustainability.