The water sector is traditionally a broad-based sector at IFAT, the world’s leading trade fair for environmental technologies. Among other things, it includes so-called industrial water. But what makes industrial water special? What are the latest trends, and what must be taken into account when handling it?
Answers to these questions as well as the latest innovations and technologies that pertain to industrial water will be available at the upcoming IFAT, which takes place in Munich from May 30 to June 3, 2016.
Industrialized nations only use a small percentage of available water resources to supply the population with drinking water. In Germany, that share is just two percent. The largest consumer is actually the energy sector, which uses approximately two thirds of total water consumption to cool power plants. The chemicals, metals and mining industries all require large quantities of water for their production operations. Treating fresh and process water, handling cooling water and wastewater, recycling water flows and recovering the reusable materials that they often contain continue to give the international environmental-technology industry an enormous field for marketing new and established solutions.
Take cooling units, for example: Among other things, the key here is to keep pathogens in check. For example, cooling towers and cooling water systems can contain legionella bacteria that can also be released into the environment, especially in the case of open cooling-water circuits. These bacteria are dangerous, especially for people with weak immune systems, and they were being discovered more and more frequently, so the Association of German Engineers (VDI) decided to formulate a new guideline titled "Recooling plants: Guaranteeing the Hygienic Operation of Evaporative Cooling Plants" in January of this year. One treatment technique that complies with the guideline is reverse osmosis. The technology, which is available from several companies in various manifestations and combinations, not only removes microbiological contamination from the water, it also protects the plants against corrosion and deposits.
When it comes to industrial enterprises around the world, a trend that has been going on for quite some time is to reduce water requirements per unit of production. If the amount of impurities being introduced remains the same, the result is increasingly smaller and increasingly concentrated wastewater flows. Compact treatment units that work locally are ideal for these cases. If you take this development to the extreme, the result is "zero-liquid discharge". This term refers to treatment methods that concentrate industrial wastewater until all that remains is pure distillate and solid matter. Ideally, the solid matter also contains valuable raw materials so that recovering them is worthwhile.
Obtaining usable materials from wastewater is definitely a trend: At TU Vienna in Austria, special microorganisms are currently being cultivated in bioreactors that can manufacture expensive substances from wastewater that are needed in the pharmaceuticals, packaging and other industries. Extremely halophilic single-cell organisms are used in this process. In salty industrial wastewater, they produce carotenoids, which can be used in several sectors—for everything from food coloring to anticancer drugs. According to researchers at TU Vienna’s Institute of Chemical Engineering, these tough microorganisms also produce polyhydroxy butyric acid. The biodegradable polymer has properties that are similar to petroleum-based plastics.
However, things that aren t in wastewater in the first place don t need to be removed later using elaborate processes. The Fraunhofer Institute for Environmental, Safety and Energy Technology in Oberhausen, Germany, is currently applying this idea to the food industry in a research project together with partners from the scientific and environmental sectors. It is testing to see if waste products such as leftover peels or blood can be suctioned out using vacuum technology instead of rinsed away with water. It reduces wastewater use and the pollutant load, which in turn cuts disposal costs.
In addition to these highlights, there are also a number of other challenges that pertain to (industrial) water/wastewater, such as the reliable removal of trace substances, future-proof sewage sludge treatment including phosphorous recovery and the enduring issue of energy production and conservation. All of these topics will be included in the exhibitors product and service portfolios and in the program of lectures at IFAT.