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AITF-supported wastewater treatment technology helping clean up Antarctica – and maybe outer space

Overview

With support from Alberta Innovates – Technology Futures (AITF), Edmonton-based Swirltex is helping with wastewater treatment in the cold climes of Antarctica and potentially outer space.

Challenge

 
Concordia Research Station, Antarctica
Effective waste management is an ongoing challenge facing communities around the world – and at bottom of the world in places like Antarctica. Research stations in cold-weather environments like Antarctica, and the Arctic, face a variety of other challenges in managing their waste and wastewater. Historically, these solutions have included dumping station sewage onto the ice or shipping it off for treatment. These respective solutions are neither environmentally friendly nor cost effective. Another challenge is altitude. While some research stations do have greywater recycling programs in place, stations at high altitudes sometimes face treatment challenges due to gravity-related issues.

Even with effective greywater treatment in place, applications for treated water are limited due to health regulations. While treated water cannot be consumed, it can be used safely for washing dishes, showering and flushing toilets. For drinking water, stations scoop up and purify fresh snow.

Solution

Swirltex, an Edmonton-based company founded by engineering technician and inventor Peter Christou, is helping address Antarctica’s water treatment challenges. Christou’s novel sewage and water filtration system spins liquid waste inside high-pressure membranes, which are porous white plastic tubes. After the process is completed, the solids end up in the centre while the water is pushed out of the tubes. The solids are returned to the tank while the water that is released becomes reusable.

Christou says he recognized the need for better water treatment solutions after his time in the military when he worked with Inuit communities on Baffin Island. Given the limited access to parts and trained technicians in remote places like the Arctic and Antarctic, he knew that a treatment solution needed to be as simple and as easy to repair as possible.

Support for Swirltex was provided through AITF’s Micro Voucher Program, which is designed to support innovation and creative problem solving in Alberta small and medium enterprises. The micro-voucher was used for a market assessment to help Swirltex gain a stronger understanding of the market potential for their technology. AITF, along with federal partners NRC-IRAP, are continuing to support Swirltex with the development of their technology and company.

 

Outcome

After a couple of years spent tinkering in his garage, Christou was invited to test his Swirltex system at the French- and Italian-run Concordia Research Station in Antarctica. His tests have proven to be hugely successful with low ammonia levels on purified water. Christou is scheduled to return to Concordia for further tests in 2017.

The technology was granted a patent this year.

Looking forward, and beyond just cold climate applications, Christou says the technology could also be used by municipalities and various industries, including oil and gas, to recycle water.

Because of the zero-gravity versatility of the Swirltex system, Christou’s invention has attracted the interest of the European Space Agency.

Swirltex is currently seeking angel and venture capital investment to expand the company.

Check out Swirltex in the news:



For more information, contact:


Matt Cornall
Technology Development Advisor
Alberta Innovates – Technology Futures
403.342.3475
matt.cornall@albertainnovates.ca

Peter Christou
President
Swirltex
587.991.1941
pchristou@swirltex.com
https://www.facebook.com/swirltex/