Prof. Azni discovers way to treat polluted water through natural process
SERDANG- A researcher from Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM), developed a river and water treatment system called the BioFil system, comprising the use of ‘cosmoball’ in natural water treatment process without adding chemical substances.
Innovation by Prof. Dr. Azni Idris incorporates bio-media ‘cosmoball’ as a tool to remove contaminated material through a biofilter, thus eliminates organic matters and ammonia in waste water.
"This innovation is made from special plastic in order to allow microorganisms grow on the surface to reduce organic pollution in the water.
“The treatment with biofilm on ‘cosmoball’ is used to allow polluted water to go through ‘fixed bed’ which contains microbe-bearing ‘cosmoball’," said the lecturer from the Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering.
According to Azni, after several hours, the microbes will consume the waste complex around the ‘cosmoball’ and convert the rest of the complex into carbon dioxide and water.
The idea surfaced when he found that most of water treatment processes using chemical treatments were expensive and caused side effects such as toxic wastes.
He is confident that if biological treatment is used, the water treatment process will be safer, cheaper and capable of being used by major industries in Malaysia such as industrial manufacturing, food, sewage sector and river treatment projects.
The research began in 1990, entering its pilot scale phase in 2007 before it was fully completed in 2009 with the help from some Chemical Engineering students; Aloysius Lai Min Yun, Maheran Ismail, Ibrahim Annual Amri, Normadina Mohd Hilmi, Gasem Hayder Ahmed Salih , Norhisham Zaharin and Nd Nor Ahmad Nazari.
"This water treatment is more effective than the existing treatments because it can be produced in a short period of time and requires little air for aeration.
"This treatment also requires a small land area and it is very effective for ammonia nitrogen removal," he said.
Prof. Azni obtained his Bachelor in Chemical Engineering from the University of Birmingham in 1980, completed his Masters in Environmental Pollution Control from Leeds University in 1983 and continued on with his Ph.D in Environmental Engineering at New Castle upon Tyne University in 1989.
Biofil system is developed entirely by UPM and underwent laboratory tests at UPM, while full-scale field tests were conducted in collaboration with Indah Water Konsortium Sdn. Bhd.
Through his efforts, this innovation has been commercialised by Physician Management Technology (M) Sdn Bhd. in 2012, after forging a pact in a memorandum of agreement (MoA) with UPM Innovations Sdn. Bhd and came out with the patent number MY 127825A for anaerobic version.
Prof. Azni was also awarded the MWA Outstanding Research Award in 2002 and the patent holder for Organic Waste Treatment Process (BioFil sysytem).
He said the cost of innovation is estimated to be worth RM8 million if it is developed for urban sewage, RM3 million for factory while the cost for a river treatment plant can reach as much as RM20 million.
"Currently, there is another new product being developed as a result from a continued development of biopolymer to complement ‘cosmoball’ and BioFil system to get rid of turbidity and color in the water.
"This product contains Aflok, which is 100 percent natural material. This product has been out in the market and received very good response from manufacturers.
"Another innovation that will be commercialised is a useful biochar microwave process that is able to convert sludge waste into charcoal," said the winner of the National Academic Awards 2013 for the Best Innovation and Product Commercialisation category.
-By Nursyahirah Ariffin, UPM
Faculty of Engineering,
Universiti Putra Malaysia,
43400 UPM Serdang,
Selangor Darul Ehsan.