Time goes fast! The second semester has just started and after the radio silence during our exam period it is time for our second blog. We’ll start with some very exciting news: our team has welcomed a brand new team member!! His name is Cedric Pieters and he is a master student at the KULeuven at the department of Nanoscience, Nanotechnology and Nanoengineering. Our first meeting was of course a bit overwhelming for him because of the load of information we’ve gathered during the previous semester that was coming his way all at once. Yet he managed to survive somehow and we are positive that this new enthusiastic member will fit in perfectly!
We also made a final decision on the technical side of the project. With a lot of help from a few PhD students and professors, we decided together with our partner to use the biological denitrification method. This method uses bacteria to purify water. Now it is legitimate to ask: whaaat? Bacteria to purify water? Well, our microscopic friends love nitrate, which is very abundant in groundwater in Lusaka. The process is called denitrification and it handles about the transformation of nitrate into nitrogen gas. It occurs naturally in environments poor of oxygen and it is, indeed, performed by bacteria. Installations using denitrification are robust and easily upscalable. As always, there are some drawbacks related to the fact that bacteria also need some food, such as sugar (njammy! As you can see they are not so different from us 😉 ). Moreover, we will have to remove solid particles from the water and disinfect it after the denitrification step as to make it completely safe to drink!
For now, we are slowly restarting the project after the ‘Humasol stop’ during the exams. We want to give Cedric some space to breathe and get worked in on the project . We’ve noticed that thinking about booking a flight ticket on your first meeting tends to be a bit paralyzing, ‘oops’ our bad! Meanwhile we are gathering some information about vaccines, visa applications and so on with the help of team spring. But most importantly, Gloria is trying to arrange some lab facilities so that we can actually try to build up a colony of bacteria here in Belgium. We hope to get started pretty soon because building up a colony from nothing takes a lot of time. This way we can get the necessary experience in feeding the bacteria with carbon sources and maintaining the colony in general. This will be very helpful once we are in Zambia executing the real scale project. We’ll let you know how this experiment goes!
That’s all for now, we hope you enjoyed our update and are eager to hear more about our water purification adventure. Goodbye! Or ‘Shalenipo’ as they would say in Lusaka.
Team Summer 🙂