Water research at the University of Glasgow

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Prof Marian Scott wins £1.4M EPSRC grant for water, energy and food systems research

Scientists from the University of Glasgow are setting out to help the planet’s population meet its growing demands for water, energy and food.

The University’s School of Mathematics and Statistics has received £1.4m from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) to tackle the challenge.

With the world’s population due to grow to eight billion by 2030, humanity is facing a crisis with predictions of increasing demand and shortages of water, energy and food.

Water and energy are needed to produce food; water is needed to produce energy and, with the advent of biofuels, energy and food are increasingly competing for land. This means that any shortage or disruption of one resource will impact on the other This unbreakable link between all the resources is known as the water-energy-food (WEF) nexus.

The WEFWEBs project will examine data and evidence around the water, energy and food systems, including social, economic, political, institutional and environmental components, and their interactions and dependencies at local, regional and national scales.

The project will use case studies based in Oxford, the Tamar Estuary, Devon and in London to explore the interdependencies in practice.

The researchers will work together with food producers, retailers, utility companies, environmental agencies, local authorities and the public to develop new data and new understandings.

Marian Scott, Professor of Environmental Statistics at the University of Glasgow, will lead the project in partnership with researchers from the Universities of Exeter, Newcastle and Oxford, University College London, Imperial College London, the School of Oriental & African Studies and Rothamsted Research.

Professor Scott said, “The WEFWEBs project will examine the data and evidence for the water, energy and food systems and their interactions and dependencies within the local, regional and national environment. We need to maintain a balance between the sometimes opposing directions that our primary systems are moving in to ensure that we safeguard our ecosystems, while still being able to live sustainably, in a world where demands are increasing.

“To study these systems and their dependencies and interactions, we need to bring together a multitude of different disciplines from the physical, environmental computational and mathematical sciences, with economics, social science, psychology and policy.

“The impact of the work will be to improve the sustainability of our society and provide an improved understanding of the consequences of the choices we make as citizens or as a society.”

The project is one of three funded by £4.5m from EPSRC’s Living with Environmental Change sandpit to support multidisciplinary groups of scientists, with additional support from STFC’s Scientific Computing Department. The other projects are led by the University of Manchester and the University of Southampton.

Professor Philip Nelson, Chief Executive of EPSRC said, “This is one of the most important challenges facing the human race, and one of the most complex. The uniqueness of these projects comes from studying all three problems together, something that hasn’t been done before.


“These projects are a great opportunity for scientists with expertise in different disciplines to come together to find solutions”.

Glasgow students receive an iGEM gold medal for a water engineering project

Congratulations to the Glasgow iGEM team!  The results of the competition were declared at the anniversary Jamboree in Boston 3rd November 2014.  The Glasgow team were awarded a gold medal, with their project to make bacteria float with a view to water engineering and desalination. Their approach integrated a responsible innovation framework to identify potential application and feedback into their project.

This is a fantastic achievement and we are very proud of both the team and their academic helpers and guides.  If you wish to see what they are up to, you can go to their wiki page for the details.

Two new Hydronation Scholarships awarded to Glasgow

The University of Glasgow will appoint two new Scottish Government funded Hydronation Scholars. One supervised by Prof Susan Waldron, Dr Vernon Phoenix and Dr Caroline Gauchotte-Lindsay to explore microplastics in freshwater. Another, supervised by Prof Bill Sloan to investigate a novel ecological wastewater treatment technology.

Success in EPSRC’s ‘Big Pitch’ for Water Engineering

Dr Ameet Pinto was awarded a grant of £250K from the EPSRC after a dragon’s den pitch on Healthy Drinking Water. The Big Pitch is a highly competitive EPSRC scheme and only 4 awards were made across the UK in Water Engineering.

HydroNation Scholarship Award

Glasgow were awarded one of 6 HydroNation scholarships from the Scottish Government. The successful candidate will work with Ameet Pinto and Paul Younger on “A Sustainable Small-Scale Potable Water Production Technology for Rural Scotland”

EPSRC Workshop – Water for Sustainable Rural Communities: 30 April -2 May 2014

Water@Glasgow is hosting a workshop on Water for Sustainable Rural Communities. This EPSRC “Clean Water for All” funded event is bringing some of the leading experts in decentralised water and wastewater technologies from the US to work with Glasgow University engineers and scientists and Scottish Water. Providing sustainable water technologies to rural communities is one of the most challengeing Global problems in Environmental Engineering. For further details on who is coming and what we want to achieve click here.

Early Career Researcher Funding Call

Frontier Engineering is an exciting research programme that aims to apply synthetic biology to water engineering problems. We are committed to expanding the reach of the programme beyond the principal investigators to help Early Career Researchers (ECRs) to collaborate on new research ideas.  We are pleased to announce a call for funding up to £10K that is open to early stage researchers across the University of Glasgow. Details of the application procedure can be downloaded here. Closing date 9th May 2014. If you have queries about the call contact Bill Sloan.

Environment news: NERC International Opportunities Grant funded

Prof. Susan Waldron and her collaborator, Dr. Ralph Burton of the NERC Centre for Atmospheric Sciences, have been awarded a NERC International Opportunities Fund pump-priming grant for field research in Malaysia (2014-15). Working with partners in Malaysia, they will use sensor technology to measure changes in soil moisture that arise from draining soils for oil palm plantation. Such significant drainage will change soil moisture budgets and in turn how much water can be evaporated from the soil surface, surface heat fluxes and the development of the boundary layer (BL). The BL is the zone of atmospheric mixing immediately above the Earth’s surface and influences many things including weather and air pollution. Thus understanding its development and stability is important. The sensor data will i) refine a conceptual model for hydrology-oil palm-atmosphere boundary layer interaction and ii) inform a numerical process-based model of BL development that considers land use change for oil palm plantations.

New EPSRC project for Ameet Pinto

Congratulations to Ameet who has been awarded another EPSRC grant titled Cell-by-Cell: On Demand Assembly & Control of Microbial Communities for the Water Industry. This was funded under the EPSRC Sponsorship Scheme. The grant will allow Ameet to establish a network of collaborators from Scotland and the US to explore new technologies that might allow for designer biofilms.

Frontier Engineering workshop 24th Feb 2-6pm in the Melville Room

The workshop will be to catalyse new ideas in deploying synthetic biology in the water industry.

New PhD project funding

Glasgow University has been successful in the Scottish Government Hydro Nation Scholarship scheme and can offer 4 projects in the open competition for fully funded scholarships.

Closing date 17th Jan 2014.


Energy Neutral Wastewater Treatment for Small Coastal Communities

Micro and Nanoplastics in Wastewater Treatment Systems and Receiving Waters

Development of a Novel Osmotic Membrane Bioreactor for Energy-Neutral Wastewater Treatment

A Sustainable Small-Scale Drinking Water Production Technology for Rural Communities

New EPSRC funding

November 2013

Glasgow has won an EPSRC ‘Clean water for all’ grant to collaborate with US scientists and Scottish Water to explore ‘Sustainable water for rural communities’.

£5m EPSRC Frontier Engineering Project Launched

Glasgow University’s Frontier Engineering project kicked off on 1st October 2013.

This £5M EPSRC project pulls together the University’s strengths in synthetic biology and water engineering to deliver new technologies in water supply and treatment.

We propose to harness one of the most rapidly evolving frontiers in science, synthetic biology, to tackle one of the most pressing engineering problems, the supply and remediation of fresh water, in order to deliver innovative technologies into a rapidly expanding international market.

Synthetic biology is an exciting and potentially transformative scientific endeavour with apparently limitless applications. This basic technology is now being developed in laboratories across the UK, with significant academic impact . The frontiers of the field are being pushed back rapidly and scaling up to real-world applications now presents a significant challenge and opportunity. In this respect, the design of technology for water supply and treatment is an area that urgently requires the innovation that synthetic biology promises. In the Developed World, the engineers of the industrial revolution bequeathed us magnificent water infrastructure. But it is now aged, faulty, expensive to maintain, costly to run, energy guzzling and, consequently, unsustainable.

We will innovate in the basic-technology of synthetic biology to improve existing and create new biotechnologies for water supply and treatment focussing on two generic themes, namely: synthetic organisms as sentinels and signallers, and synthetic organisms as catalysts.

The chip-to-lab-to-pilot scale water engineering technologies in drinking water systems, membrane filtration technologies, anaerobic digestion, microbial fuel cells and bioelectrochemical systems currently being developed in the Environmental Engineering group will provide robust environments to test new ideas. We will use synthetic organisms as sentinels and signallers to engineer the formation and dissolution of biofilms and to optimise the recovery of valuable products in the anaerobic treatment of wastewater. We will develop minimal cell architectures as catalysts in detoxifying water. We will quantify the dynamics of populations of synthetic organisms in open microbial communities and explore responsible innovation in synthetic biology and governance of the emerging technologies.

For further information please visit: http://gow.epsrc.ac.uk/NGBOViewGrant.aspx?GrantRef=EP/K038885/1

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