Industrial waste to clean water in African project

An innovative project is to be launched by the University of Wolverhampton to help tackle environmental problems in West Africa.

Two of Ghana’s main industries are aluminium mining and gold mining, both of which result in hazardous waste being left behind as a by-product leading to contaminated water supplies.

Over the last few years a team from the University of Wolverhampton’s School of Applied Sciences has developed a process to transform mine waste into zeolites.

Zeolites are minerals that are microporous- meaning they are absorbent- and they are commonly used in filtering and purifying water and in processing nuclear waste.

They can be used to treat water courses that have been contaminated with heavy toxic metals such as arsenic, lead, copper and mercury.

Zeolites will firstly be created using bauxite and porcelain waste products from aluminium mining. They will then be applied to contaminated water courses to absorb toxic elements to reduce the health risks posed to local communities.

The aim of the project is to test and create the process in order to replicate it on an industrial scale and to then transfer this knowledge onto Ghana. The University will be working with the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) in Ghana.

The project has received £180,000 of funding from the Leverhulme- Royal Society Awards for Africa scheme.

The money will pay for three members of staff, a PHD student, equipment and research and visits to Ghana and Wolverhampton by experts in both the UK and Africa.

Craig Williams, who is Professor of Meso and Microporous Materials at the University of Wolverhampton, said: “The project aims to effectively take two of Ghana’s biggest environmental problems and solve them in one.

“Not only will it put industrial waste to good use, it’ll also clean up the environment and treat contaminated water. Importantly, it is at relatively low cost.

“We have developed a number of different processes at the labs in Wolverhampton in recent years where we have been able to create zeolites from waste mine material.

“This project will take that one step further by testing that process on a bulk scale and applying it on an industrial level.

“We will work with our partners in Ghana to equip them with the necessary knowledge to be able to take the process forward in future years. It will also be a great learning opportunity for researchers both here and in Africa.”

The project is due to get underway next month.

ENDS

For more information please contact James Allen in the Media Relations Office on 01902 322003

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