The Future of Water Saving: Polymer Materials are Coming

Mario Honrubiaengineers

Reduce the Water Consumption in Cooling Towers: The Challenge

In 2016, ennomotive launched a challenge to help a company become more eco-friendly by reducing the water consumption in their cooling towers. Water is able to cool down equipment and then to cool itself by evaporation of a portion of the water and the release of the latent heat. For the past few decades, companies are becoming more environmentally conscious and the industrial processes are moving towards a more sustainable production with a reduction in the use of natural resources. The goal of this challenge was to recover the water from the cooling tower at a reasonable cost in order to reduce the water consumption. For 6 weeks, 39 engineers from 21 countries accepted the challenge and submitted different solutions. After a thorough evaluation, the company picked the solution that best met the evaluation criteria and awarded the winner, Matteo Bruni, from Italy. We have contacted Matteo to learn about his experience and the future water saving and polymer materials. Here you can read the full interview.

Matteo Bruni, advocate for Polymer Materials in Water Saving

Can you introduce yourself briefly?

My name is Matteo Bruni and a chemical engineer from Italy. I got my Master’s degree in Chemical Engineering at Politecnico di Milano University. I have worked as process engineer in many oil and gas companies, focused on water separation and water treatment systems.

What projects have been crucial for your career?

During my last year at the university, I developed a project for water-oil separation by means of electrostatic precipitators. This project had been successfully installed in an offshore platform for the company that financed the project (that consequently also hired me).

What are the most significant advances made in water saving in the past few years?

There is an almost unlimited water saving progress, from chemical to mechanical ways. Currently, many universities are studying new polymer materials capable to trap very small water droplets (a kind of “sponge”, so to speak), regenerating them mechanically. Development on nozzles and water spraying systems also led to big water savings in industrial fields in the recent past.

Is it difficult to innovate in this sector? Why?

Unfortunately yes; it is extremely difficult to innovate in this field: thermodynamic is pushing against recovery and, most of the time, industrial companies do not want to spend money to tear down this barrier. Typically, a water system (e.g. a cooling tower) is kept alone with very limited or no maintenance, which is absolutely wrong, in my opinion, as every water system require dedicated maintenance and revamping.  It is no news, for instance, the development of bacteria in many cooling towers around the world (Legionella, for instance, grows only in untreated waters, recycled many times without adequate chemical injection to prevent its growth).

Which are the more immediate innovations in the coming in the next years in this field?

Brand new polymer materials will be the future of water saving. They will be a cost-effective solution to reduce water consumption.
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