Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Pitt study finds 'green' water treatments may not kill bacteria in large building cooling systems

13.12.2010
Pitt Study Suggests Nonchemical Water Treatments Touted As “Green” Fail to Prevent Bacterial Growth in Air-Cooling Systems Found in Hospitals, Large Buildings

Five devices pitched as alternatives to chemical water treatment for water-based air-conditioning systems allowed the same rate of bacterial growth as untreated water, Pitt researchers found in two-year study.

Nonchemical treatment systems are touted as environmentally conscious stand-ins for such chemicals as chlorine when it comes to cleaning the water-based air-conditioning systems found in many large buildings. But a recent study by University of Pittsburgh researchers suggests that this diverse class of water-treatment devices may be ineffective and can allow dangerous bacteria to flourish in the cooling systems of hospitals, commercial offices, and other water-cooled buildings almost as much as they do in untreated water.

The two-year study by a team in Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering is the first to thoroughly investigate the ability of nonchemical treatment devices (NCDs) to control the growth of bacteria in water-based cooling systems. Of the five NCDs tested, none significantly prevented bacterial growth. On the other hand, the researchers found that standard chlorine treatment controlled these organisms, even after bacteria had been allowed to proliferate.

“Our results suggest that equipment operators, building owners, and engineers should monitor systems that rely on NCDs to control microorganisms,” said coinvestigator Janet Stout, a research associate in the Swanson School’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and director of the Pittsburgh-based Special Pathogens Laboratory. Stout worked with fellow lead investigator Radisav Vidic, chair and William Kepler Whiteford Professor of civil and environmental engineering, and Pitt civil engineering graduate student Scott Duda.

“These cooling systems are energy efficient and, if properly treated, very safe,” Stout continued. “But based on our results, nonchemical devices alone may not be enough to control microbial growth. One possible measure is to add chemical treatment as needed to prevent a potential health hazard.”

The air systems the team investigated work by piping chilled water throughout a building. The water warms as it exchanges temperature with the surrounding air and becomes a hotbed of microorganisms before returning to a central cooling tower to be cleaned and re-chilled.

If the returning water is not thoroughly cleaned, bacteria can spread throughout the system, exposing people within the building to possible infection and hampering the system’s energy efficiency.

The team constructed two scale models of typical cooling towers. One model remained untreated while the other was treated with five commercially available NCDs installed according to the manufacturers’ guidelines. Each device was tested for four weeks. Chlorine was administered three times during the study to demonstrate that an industry-accepted chemical treatment could kill bacteria even in a heavily contaminated system.

The five devices tested represent different classes of NCDs, Vidic said. Pulsed electric-field devices emit electromagnetic energy that, in theory, ruptures bacterial membranes and activates particles that ensnare the bacterium. Electrostatic devices function similarly by producing a constant static field.

Ultrasonic devices pass a mixture of untreated water and high-pressure air through a chamber that purportedly disintegrates the bacterium with sound waves.

For hydrodynamic cavitation devices, two cone-shaped water streams collide to form a vacuum region filled with high-friction bubbles that collide with and presumably deactivate the bacteria. Finally, the team tested a magnetic device, although magnetic NCDs are intended to prevent mineral buildup, not control bacterial growth.

The study was funded by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers.

University Units
Swanson School of Engineering

Morgan Kelly | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.pitt.edu

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Smart Data Transformation – Surfing the Big Wave
02.12.2016 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Angewandte Informationstechnik FIT

nachricht Climate change could outpace EPA Lake Champlain protections
18.11.2016 | University of Vermont

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

Im Focus: Molecules change shape when wet

Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water

In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...

Im Focus: Fraunhofer ISE Develops Highly Compact, High Frequency DC/DC Converter for Aviation

The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

UTSA study describes new minimally invasive device to treat cancer and other illnesses

02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering

Plasma-zapping process could yield trans fat-free soybean oil product

02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

What do Netflix, Google and planetary systems have in common?

02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>