2 November 2023

The world comprises of over 70% water but only less than 2% is fresh drinkable water. As the population increases and as people prefer to live near seas, freshwater scarcity is already a big problem, not just in developed nations, but also in developing countries where people rely on brackish groundwater. Currently, water desalination is achieved using a process called reverse osmosis, but the process is energy-intensive and, therefore, costly. It also produces a brine sludge, which poses a disposal problem.

The funded project will focus on developing a biological process for water desalination. The method relies on devices called microbial desalination cells (MDCs). MDCs use a combination of microbial metabolism and electrochemical techniques to remove salts from water. Naturally occurring bacteria in the system can consume organic matter, which could be contained in waste streams such as wastewater, and generate electricity, driving the desalination process. The goal of the project is to optimise the performance of the MDCs so that they are effective, efficient and scalable.

The recipient of the studentship, Clement Nyadroh, said: “I am sincerely grateful to Trevor for his support, which is a powerful motivation for me to excel in my research and contribute meaningfully to the scientific community. His investment in my education will not only shape my academic journey but will also have a lasting effect on countless individuals who stand to benefit from the advancements in water desalination.”

Dr Godfrey Kyazze, Reader in Bioprocess Technology, co-leader of the Sustainable Biotechnology Research Group and supervisor of the studentship recipient, added: “MDCs not only desalinate water, but they also treat wastewater. They utilise microorganisms to break down organic matter in the wastewater, which can lead to improved water quality. This dual-purpose functionality can be particularly advantageous in areas where desalination and wastewater treatment are needed. MDCs don't rely on high-pressure systems or extensive chemical treatments, which can have negative environmental impacts. I am very grateful to Trevor for funding the project.”

Jordan Scammell, Head of Fundraising and Development, said: “I’m delighted that Trevor has decided to support PhD research at the University so generously, and in an area of research which I know is important to him that will help Clement investigate solutions to the global water crisis. It’s great to have Clement with us and to read about his research proposal. I look forward to following his journey and findings, made possible thanks for this support.”

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