Decades of research to improve human health

Award winning Scientia Professor David Waite’s career encompasses exceptional research, international standing and a wide-ranging contribution to the field of environmental chemistry and engineering.

Decades of research to improve human health In his forty-year career, Waite has published more than 300 peer-reviewed articles and attracted more than $16 million in research funding, focused upon the behaviour of elements such as iron, manganese, copper, silver and uranium in natural and engineered systems.

“The work that I’ve undertaken over the years is a mix of understanding how nature works, as well as developing new technologies for treating our water and wastewater,” Waite said.

“It’s a dual investigation of both underlying biogeochemical processes in nature, but also new technologies in water treatment.” The impact of his work is multifaceted, ranging from improved technologies for water treatment, to better approaches to land management, to mineral extraction from tailings deposits and the management of radioactive wastes.

While Professor Waite’s research aim has been to undertake biogeochemical research which improves our understanding of natural aquatic systems, he has a larger two-fold goal in sight. He wants his work, he says, “to enable us to prevent environmental degradation, and also to develop appropriate solutions to challenges such as provision of water supply and improving human health”.

The work that I’ve undertaken over the years is a mix of understanding how nature works, as well as developing new technologies for treating our water and wastewater

Scientia Professor David Waite

Along with colleagues Dr Peter Kovalsky and Professor John Fletcher, one of Professor Waite’s current ARC Linkage projects involves the development of a low cost robust sustainable technology for effective water treatment. The main outcome is intended to be a solar-pow- ered device for removal of salt and other contaminants from groundwater that is capable of stand-alone opera- tion with optimal energy recovery and inbuilt monitoring – perfect for remote or developing communities around the world.

treat water supplies in remote Indian villages

“While the core technology (of Capacitive Deionisation or CDI) has been around for a while, it’s becoming increasingly popular because it’s a low-energy technology and is also very scalable,” Waite explains. “If you want to build a small unit for a household, you can do that, but you can also scale it up to serve a community.”

The device being developed by Waite and his col- leagues uses both non-redox and redox processes, with the latter a focus for generating chlorine or hydrogen peroxide in the units.

“It’s a composite technology where we can lower the salinity, we can remove trace contaminants like fluoride and arsenic and nitrate, and also potentially generate disinfectants in the process,” he said.

In 2014 the philanthropic arm of Tata Group – one of India’s largest multinational conglomerates employing over 600,000 people - awarded the project grant funding to build units to treat water supplies in remote Indian villages without any mains power.

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