Page 45 - UCT Research Report 2011

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environmentally friendly water treatment process will be
achieved – EFC does exactly this,” says Professor Lewis.
One of the potential disadvantages of conventional EFC
is that it can require very low temperatures, depending
on the salts present in the brine. This can make EFC
uneconomical compared to other technologies. Professor
Lewis and her group have resolved this problem through
a process in which the natural eutectic temperature (the
point at which crystallisation occurs) is elevated. This
means that it becomes feasible to remove a range of
salts at higher temperatures than their natural eutectic
freezing points, thus reducing energy requirements. This
process has been patented and has received a very
favourable Written Opinion from the patent examiner at
Patent Co-operation Treaty (PCT) stage, indicating that,
based on the International Search Report, all claims
are novel, inventive, and useful. UCT has subsequently
pursued various international patent filings (Australia,
Europe, and Canada) in addition to South Africa.
Researchers in the Crystallization and Precipitation Research Unit Laboratory.
The unit is currently seeking funding in conjunction with
commercial partner Proxa (Pty) Ltd, to build an EFC pilot
plant that will operate at various client mines to treat
wastewater, testing the amenability of this innovative solution
for management of the waste and to generate the design
parameters used as the basis for full-scale plant design. Proxa
is involved in engineering, construction, and operation of
mobile and fixed water treatment systems that cover the entire
water cycle. Through the partnership, know-how built up within
Professor Lewis’s group at UCT has been transferred to Proxa,
who have combined this with their own knowledge of full-scale
plant design principles and the requirements for integration
of EFC into a typical process flowsheet. The relationship
is symbiotic, with UCT remaining involved to develop the
detailed understanding of the specific requirements for the
effective separation of a client’s brine and any troubleshooting.
UCT is actively developing other intellectual property
around crystalliser design, which will further augment
Proxa’s offering to clients and end users.