Hey everyone, let's get started. Let's all welcome @Ryan Beltrán to the Hack Chat today. We're going to discuss clean water tech and using STEM to maximize its impact.
Ryan, can you get us going with a little bit about yourself and Makewater.org?
@Dan Maloney ! Hi everyone!Thank you
So I really got interested in electrocoagulation years ago.
And I read up on studies saying it had water treatment potential but there was alot of research that still needed to be done.
I connected with a local makerspace and an electrical engineer that taught me about open source and arduinos etc and we started making small batch testing prototypes to test on different water.
People would reach out asking me if it worked on different types of water and I had no idea! So I wanted to get to a point where I could say here build a kit and find out yourself but please share what you find.
We connected with a water utility education department and we put these prototypes in schools and students really liked tinkering and self teaching about how it all worked.
Check out that video for a quick idea on how the MakeWater program works.
So I'm not a professional anything when it comes to water. I've just been following my passion for what the tech can do and trying to share about it and trying to crowdsource research.
ooh sounds very interesting especially with the STEM bit of getting the kids etc involved!
So is electrocoagulation used on big-scale water treatment projects? Are there commercial treatment plants that use it?
Yeah! That is sorta overshadowing the tech itself now. I realized how it can be a vehicle for self teaching.
Have you found a density limitation - say for how dense the debris is in the water before the effectiveness of the process is belayed?
What's it like treading the line between real-world solution and the educational aspect? Is it difficult to convince people that it's "real" if they see it being used in classrooms?
@Dan Maloney Yes electrocoagulation is used in large scale waste water processes. With some stipulation that it uses to much energy but I believe it needs more research to find more efficiency.
@Dan Maloney We do not have plans to make it for a large commercial project. We want to focus on small batch use open source and research and help ignite others to make their own large scale uses for the tech in an open source way.
Are there materials (debris) that seems more resistant to the process than others?
Well it's good because all the people that learn about it can help iterate the tech in the future!
@Erin RobotGrrl Good question. I feel like more of a connector than a convincer at the moment. I like that the kits and curriculum tend to speak for themselves.
@Erin RobotGrrl we do alot of connecting real world with classrooms byt people who engage with the program and alot of come to us via hackaday. For instance a Bolivian group want to use it to teach about water education but also experiment with students on local water.
I would think STEM teachers are probably grateful for an alternative to robots and rockets for their kids.
@Vije Miller so far yeah there are some things that don't coagulate as easy as others. I think like soaps etc don't. Heavy metals do tend to coagulate easily like arsenic and lead.
@Dan Maloney yeah and our nonprofit elequa wants to send out kits for free through donations so we lower the barrier to particiapte
Microplastics are a hot topic, has there been interest in focusing on this and have you studied the effectiveness of this process on microplastics?
Also we like that it introduces arduinos to students who can use them for other projects
Here is the current build page
Our mission is to empower students who want to make a difference in this world by giving them the tools to tackle real-world water issues collaboratively. The program and curriculum is entirely free and we are crowd sourcing funds to give away kits to teams that need them all over the world.
@Vije Miller we have not yet tested it on microplastics. If I had to guess I don't think it would work well but who knows! Since I don't directly do testing what I do is I have a challenge list. So testing on microplastics would be a challenge we add and try and connect student teams with these challenges during our season.
Has there been any surprising uses (ie, not according to the original design use) with your kit yet? :)
Oh that's interesting about the challenges! How many have been solved so far? How many groups are there currently?
@Ryan Beltrán I just found a paper using EC for microbeads! https://pubs.acs.org/doi/pdf/10.1021/acsomega.7b02037
My guess is that it would depend on the chemistry of the plastic. I'll bet there are plastics with the right groups exposed and they'd be precipitable
@Erin RobotGrrl well one team last year wanted to test recouping hydrogen from the process (electrocoagulation is basically electrolysis) and use it in a hydrgen fuel cell. I thought this was awesome! They found it didn't work well because the hydrogen was dirty. It was a great way to learn something new.
They were sad it didnt work but they won for the year because they embraced that it didn't go to plan and they shared why it didn't so in the future people know that.
@Erin RobotGrrl also challenges havent always completely been solved. usually they end up somewhere they can pass the baton for future teams to continue the challenge. So more like incremental.
wow yes that was kinda awesome!
@Neil K. Sheridan Nice! I will save that.
Fail early, fail often. It's how you learn which paths not to go down.
@Dan Maloney yeah. I think it also has to do alot with the charge of the ions of the material you want to coagulate. So perhaps it could work. How best to test? Where to find microplastics?
"Where to find microplastics?" Step 1 Grab cup Step 2 Fill cup with ocean. Sigh, this is sadly true.
@Vije Miller hahah awww sad. Yes.
"fill cup with ocean", that's a mighty big cup
I'm not sure how you would measure concentration of microplastics in given sample! But I'm sure someone has worked it out!
So the program is open to not just students and educators but anyone interested in taking on a challenge! We also want to find mentors who know more about coding and arduinos and hardware to help!
Some thing I had focused on a few years ago and would love to return to is flotation devices that use your method. Have you found that agitation of the water decreases or increases efficiency?
I think you can centrifuge the microplastics out.
@Vije Miller I believe agitation does help. One team of students put the water on top of a cellphone and tested vibration and efficiency last year!
@Dan Maloney I think there is density floatation - so dense polymers would float..
So not only do challenges tackle water purification but challenges are set to help evolve the kits to add sensors and methods for logging data.
Does electrocoagulation work to lower the FOG content (fat, oil, grease) ?
@marktrezz I believe it does work on greases yes. How it compares to other methods I do not know.
How much space would be needed to make an electrocoagulation setup to handle 6300 gallons per hour ? We work with slaughterhouse that goes through that much water (about 100,000 gallons per day) and they need to clean up the output back to the city.
Salt versus fresh water - is there a significant different in effect between the two
@marktrezz crikey I think this is just small-scale project vs. scaling up to that!
@marktrezz this is beyond my knowledge I'm sorry! If you want to make initial tests you can build the kit we have on our project page. https://hackaday.io/project/165346-water-coagulator-kit-current-build . There are commercial electrocoagulation businesses out there who might help on a quote.
@marktrezz a really big sponge and a lady who rings it out really fast.
@Vije Miller We haven't done alot with salt water. We have tested and salt would coagulate but it would just keep coming out! I remember the salt never stopped precipitating. It was just a test or two so nothing super deep.
So you need salt to help with the electrolysis, but too much and it's the salt that gets precipitated out?
Too much and it ruins the water I believe.
This is the first year we are adding a tiny amount of salt to increase conductivity for initial tests for new people who test the kit. Because electrocoagulation doesn't work well in low conductivity environments.
Also an awesome added benefit is that if we can find the right balance adding salt does create chlorine which can be used as a disinfectant in water.
So that's two reasons why we are starting to experiment with salt.
A bit like pool salt
@Ryan Beltrán for answering my questions and keep up the good work.I have to step out and just wanted to say thx to
I thought the initial question was meant for desalination or ocean water which is really high in salinity.
@Vije Miller Thanks ! great chatting!
Thanks for stopping by @vijilij
Oops @Vije Miller
@Dan Maloney I bet you see alot of water related DIY projects. Any that you suggest I check out? We are always looking to share more of that and collaborate with others when possible.
The question is to anyone really!
@Ryan Beltrán I added you on twitter.. so will let you know of any I find!
Thank you! It's a hard on the spot question. Please send me them as you see them or you think of them!
I mostly check at the other end of the spectrum, hydro electricity.
Off hand, most of what I've seen have been sensor-based projects - level of water in tanks, sensing spills, etc. Think I saw a desalinization project once - I'll look for it.
@Nicolas Tremblay Interesting! Like ocean waves too?
Clean water is #2 on the Millennium Project's list of 15 global challenges. (Other challenges include climate change, and population & resource allocation.) Clean water faces two challenges: first, many people live in costal environments, but only have access to saline water. Second, people in many noncostal areas have been driving local water tables deeper through overutilization.
Using a combination of traditional water filtration methods, as well as generating purifying ozone via a solar source, water from just about any source can be turned into potable water for use in cleaning, cooking and drinking. In Africa, especially, there are more than 350 million people, and over 750 million people around the world, with no access to clean water.
There was that project from Supercon last year shaped like a clam shell and it could take readings or something, then ascend to the top with a chemical reaction process
Could be useful for rainwater harvest treatment I think, or greywater reuse esp in off-grid communities.
No, mostly systems working with the current of a river. Non disturbing to the eco system.
@Neil K. Sheridan I think it could It has come up before. Just takes that someone to take on that challenge.
@Dan Maloney thanks I will save those
@Ryan Beltrán Thank you for the hack chat! Interesting project :) thanks for sharing!
has the ferrofluid research been noted in this discussion?
@Ryan Beltrán well I certainly learned something new today! Thanks for sharing your project! I do especially like the STEM education element, and how the people who learn about it can help advance the tech!
@Erin RobotGrrl Thank you for the great questions!
@YOUR NAME I haven't worked with that yet. I did see the google science fair winner does that with microplastics
Well thanks everyone! I need to feed the baby now! I appreciate the questions.