Senior lecturer in water quality Dr Dyllon Randall’s fertiliser-producing urinal, a world first, is a finalist in two research categories in the Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE) Global Awards 2018. The results will be announced next month in Manchester.
Randall, from the Department of Civil Engineering, is competing against the world’s top researchers for the Research Project Award and Sustainability Award, two of this year’s 10 categories.
With more than 40 000 members in 100 countries, IChemE is the global professional membership organisation for engineers and other professionals in the chemical, process and bioprocess industries.
In his entry proposal, Randall writes that waterless urinals can save almost 30% of a person’s daily water consumption, vital in water-stressed areas such as South Africa. In addition, urinals can be designed to collect and not dispose of urine, a valuable resource.
“This is important because urine makes up only 1% of domestic waste water by volume, yet it contains over 80% of the nitrogen, 56% of the phosphorous and over 63% of the potassium found in this waste water. These three nutrients are required for producing so-called NPK fertiliser, which is required to grow food for an ever-increasing population,” he explained.
“These three nutrients are required for producing so-called NPK fertiliser, which is required to grow food for an ever-increasing population.”
Of added significance is that natural phosphate reserves are running dry. Some researchers predict that “peak phosphorus” will be reached in the next 50 years, Randall added.
Innovations using waste
Randall already has a raft of accolades and awards thanks to his pioneering research in waste-water treatment.
He was part of the team that scooped two awards at UNLEASH 2018, a global innovation lab held in Singapore: the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6: Clean Water and Sanitation, and the Global Scalability Potential award. The team’s winning SaniHive prototype is a self-sustaining toilet hub that recovers value from waste. The innovation has huge potential in urban informal settlements.
Randall’s students have also won several awards. In 2017, final-year student Craig Flanagan’s fertiliser-from-urine venture bagged a prestigious Greenovate Award for sustainable research in building. Another project, bio-bricks made from urine, was also nominated for a 2017 Greenovate Award.
New breed of engineer
His master’s student, Tinashe Chipako, won the 2018 South African Institution of Civil Engineering (SAICE) National Investigative Project (IP) Showdown for South African universities. Chipako’s project investigated the feasibility of implementing waterless urinals on UCT’s upper campus.
More recently, Randall was named among a trio of UCT lecturers who are participating in Team Mahali, to design and build a net-zero-energy house. This will compete at Solar Decathlon Africa in Morocco next year. Team Mahali is based at Stellenbosch University’s Sustainability Institute.
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