Cereal cleans up liquid w a s t e Working in collaboration woth the Fraunhofer Institute for lnterfacial Engineering and Biotechnology IGB, Stuttgart, German),, ATEC Dr Mann GmbH has developed a process that uses bioadsorbers to bind heavy metals, and therefore remove them from process waste streams. Outflows of wastewater from numerous industrial processes contain heavy metals that are a serious hazard to the environment. At the same time these outflows are of considerable commercial value. Currently both thermal and membrane processes are used to recover these metals from wastewater and return them to the production cycle. The most common method used involves precipitation reactions followed by an adsorption process using synthetic resin ion exchangers. In this system the metal ions are bound to the resin and replaced by hydrogen ions. When the ion exchanger is exhausted it can be regenerated with an acid. This produces a highly concentrated acidic salt solution, which can be further condensed, and a reusable ion exchanger. A disadvantage of using synthetic resins is that they are made from petroleum, which is a limited resource.
The new process functions in the same way, but uses bioabsorbers made from sustainable, biological materials. The ion exchanger use residual products from cereal processing, i.e. bran, rather than synthetic resins. The process involves doping bran with phosphate groups, which enable it to bind heavy metals. The material can also be regenerated and reused a number of times. According to researchers these bioadsorbers are of value in many different areas of environmental protection because the raw material can be modified in several ways. The two companies are now
working on adsorbers that are capable of removing chlorinated hydrocarbons and humic acid from wastewater.
Distillation l o w e r s vehicle emissions Engineers from The University of Texas at Austin College of Engineering (UTA), USA, and the Ford Motor Co, USA, have patented a new technology aimed at reducing vehicle emissions by a minimum of 50%. In temperate and cold weather, petrol vehicles use more fuel when the key turns in the ignition and as the engine is warming up, than when the vehicle has been running fbr a few minutes. This
is because only vaporised petrol burns. When a car is started only about 20% of the petrol injected onto an engine's intake valves vaporises and powers the engine. According to the researchers the rest forms a puddle in the intake manifold and evaporates when the engine gets warm, causing the engine to emit a higher hydrocarbon level. Engineers have long recognised that the ideal automobile engine would run on two kinds of fuels: an extra-volatile fuel for starting the engine and for warm-up, with a separate type of fuel for ongoing operation. This is exactly what the new system does. An on-board distillation system, which adds less than 2.3 kg of weight to the engine, acts like a miniature oil refinery. The system converts the petrol into two fuels. The molecules of petrol that are easy to evaporate, i.e. the highly volatile ones are separated from all the other molecules. And then those highly volatile molecules are stored separately and used to start the car. The system will initially be installed in a Ford 2001 Lincoln Navigator at UTA's mechanical engineering laboratories, where it will be refined for both performance and cost effectiveness over the next year and a half until ready for mass production.