Notes from Piers, no 179 – More Wetflix than Netflix?

Piers Clark talks magnetic nanoparticles, pipe dreams and the love for his job.

More Wetflix than Netflix?

Give me just three minutes of your time and I will show you something incredible. In fact, I will show you three incredible things. Firstly a no-dig repair process for sewers which is magical in its simplicity. Secondly, arguably the most exciting thing to happen in the world of sludge (it’s a narrow field). And thirdly, a makes-you-tingle-with-excitement-at-the-possibilities technology that might, just might, help save the planet from disaster.

First up is Tubogel, a German company with a method for repairing sewers without the need for troublesome roadworks. It is a gloriously simple, involving little more than two special liquids, T1 and T2. To repair a sewer one simply pumps T1 down the offending pipe. T1 seeps into every crook and cranny, and oozes out of any breakages. The pipe is then flushed clean, and T2 is added, where it also seeps and oozes as did its sister only a few minutes before. This is when the magic happens. Where the two liquids touch they become an impenetrable solid, instantly fixing any cracks or breakages. You can see the magic happen in the following clip. Jump to 2min 18 seconds to see the best bit. This is more than just a pipe dream…

Next up is Orege, a French company who has developed the SLG process. This technology significantly enhances sludge thickening and dewatering processes. How the SLG process works is irrelevant, it is what it does that matters. All you need to know can be seen in the following 40 second clip. It shows an Operator taking a sludge sample after it has been SLG’ed. This is my go-to clip when a water utility CEO asks me what is ‘hot’ in the world of wastewater. Watching their jaws drop as the big reveal becomes apparent is a joy to behold.!ArieIl8u5L00geo16JkION-CxnbuRA

Finally we come to Los Angeles based company, Advantageous Systems Inc. To be fair, the use of magnetic nanoparticles is not new. Neither is the development of specialist coatings which can proactively bind to specific pollutants. Where Advantageous Systems have made a leap has been in combining the two to create a non-membrane technology that can selectively remove contaminants with minimal energy consumption. Written like that it doesn’t sound exciting, but bear with me because the potential applications are astonishing. The ADS technology can already efficiently remove pollutants such as arsenic, selenium, perchlorate and nitrates, amongst others. The following video clip shows how it works with algae (more visually dramatic than watching arsenic removal!)

My dream for Advantageous Systems is that their technology might remove micro-plastics from wastewaters. Micro-plastics are becoming a serious issue, contaminating our food chain and poisoning our environment. We need to find effective removal solutions. Control at source is the obvious answer but I suspect that’s two generations (40 years) away at least. We need to develop solutions which can deal with the problem right now, especially if we want to maintain our sludge-to-land recycling routes (ie the driver for developing this solution is not just to protect the environment, there is also a public health angle and a clear commercial need). Following discussions with the CEO for Advantageous Systems we are developing a research programme to explore the micro-plastic removal application further. If you want to know more/get involved then let me know. The more brains focussed on the problem the better.

The above clips are part of my growing collection of exciting video clips of innovative water technology technologies. The company I work for, Isle Group Ltd, works with over 200 utilities around the world, helping them identify and adopt new technology. We scour the planet looking for solutions to our utility customers’ challenges and have screened over 6000 technologies in recent years. Isle is an independent technical consultant and we make no commercial gain from recommending one technology over another; we simply look for those technologies that might solve a problem. What I absolutely love about the above clips is that they showcase what they do in a crisp, compelling way. You might not know how the Orege SLG process works, or what the special formuale is in the Tubogel fluids, but you are left in no doubt about what they can do. They get straight to the heart of the technology pitch.

I love my job. Not least because it enables me to mix with some of the worlds hardest working and most inventive entrepreneurs. If you want more information on any of the above please contact me directly (or email August Von Joest ( for Tubogel; Ian Patheyjohns ( for Orege or Adam Stein ( for Advantageous Systems). Finally, an important disclaimer: The above is written in good faith. Any miss-representations are completely down to me and my innate ability to oversimplify things and be blindly optimistic about the role technology can play in making the world a better place. Join me in seeing the world through rose tinted spectacles. You will sleep better at night.

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