Floating rafts to remove heavy metal pollution

December 6, 2017

Metal islands: simple rafts grow vegetation that absorbs heavy metal pollution from water

Finding innovative solutions to remove heavy metal pollution from waterways and soils, was the focus of a research trip to China by Murdoch environmental engineering students.

Academic Chair of Environmental Engineering Dr Martin Anda travelled to Zheizang province with five students as part of the Federal Government’s New Colombo Plan Mobility Program.

The group collaborated with Zhejiang Agricultural and Forestry University to develop an effective method of cleaning up polluted lakes and rivers and surrounding soil.

Dr Anda said heavy metal pollution was caused by solid waste disposal, wastewater irrigation, car exhaust and industrial waste.

“One of the greatest difficulties facing the students was that heavy metal waste is not biodegradable,” he said.

“The students experimented with designing and building rafts that create a floating wetland to remove the toxic pollutants.”

The rafts are planted with seedlings so the plant roots trap contaminants underwater – bacterial and algal biofilms also form on the roots to help facilitate this uptake – and create a biomass that can be harvested.

The designs were simple and cheap to build they were accessible to people with few resources and minimal schooling. The students experimented with different plants to identify suitable species that were cheap and resilient.

Dr Martin Anda from the School of Engineering and Information Technology the valuable practical experience gave students important insight into the process of solving real-world problems.

It also provided a strong foundation for future research to assist in pollution control in Zhejiang Province.

In addition, the students expanded their global outlook with a program of visits to key historical and cultural highlights, including a trip to the Yellow Mountains.

The University visit was organised by Professor Shengchun Wu, Professor Ming–hung Wong and Dr Peng Liang

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