Sound investment: Temple team advances use of noise to purify water

    You heard it here first. A Temple University research team is using a very shrill and unpleasant sound for a good purpose, to purify water.

    A broad range of chemicals get into the environment through industrial waste or runoff. Cleaning up that wastewater is usually complicated and expensive. The research team at Temple’s Water and Environmental Technology Center, known as the WET Center, is on its way to demonstrating a range of new technologies to make that process easier. One of them, the ultrasound method uses sound generated by vibrating metal plates. “All that energy gets focused on those microscopic points and you’re literally creating conditions similar to the surface of the sun at those microscopic points. So whatever the contaminants are there, they get zapped, or broken down,” says Rominder Suri, the head of the lab.

    “Chemical industries … pharmaceutical industries, pesticide manufacturing,” are among the places Suri envisions deploying the technology. The sound vibrations can be adjusted to target different substances.

    The Temple academic will have a head start on getting his product in front of those industries. While the system in Suri’s lab right now is what he calls lab-sized, capable of treating just a couple of liters of wastewater,  he already has the funds to build bigger models to put on a more convincing demonstration for potential customers. “It helps that we can demonstrate that technology at a larger scale, which becomes attractive for applications,” explains Suri.

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    Pennsylvania and the National Science Foundation awarded the lab funds last year to build the bigger systems. Pennsylvania also has a very successful program to help turn research into products. The Ben Franklin Technology Partners group has lent advice and helped the program find commercial partners. Suri’s lab will have a bigger ultrasound module built by the summer. It will tour with one of the other technologies the lab has developed to sites around the globe.

    Suri told Temple’s news service the team could help turn the Delaware Valley into the Silicon Valley of water treatment.

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