On 14 April 2023, the University of Twente opens a special new lab: the Waterlab. At the pond by Hogekampplein, this small glass building houses a unique testing centre for research and education in the field of water and membrane technology. The opening of the lab is part of Twente membranes Day, celebrating 50 years of membrane research in Twente.
The impending shortage of drinking water emphasises the need for research into new water purification technologies. Membrane technology is one of the most promising solutions, partly because of its low energy consumption. The Waterlab is the perfect place for researchers, students and companies to test and demonstrate the possibilities of membrane technology in practice.
The Water Miracle, a smart modular ultrafiltration system that purifies water from the adjacent pond and turns rainwater into irrigation water, is one of the showpieces of the Waterlab. The purified water is stored in a basement of 1,000 cubic metres. UT will use this water for its sport fields, thereby making enormous savings on its consumption of drinking water. The storage also serves as a buffer for periods of drought.
In addition to the Water Miracle, the Waterlab provides space for five small-scale pilots. Each has access to five types of water: wastewater, rainwater, pond water and drinking water. The Waterlab is a good stepping stone from fundamental research to industrial pilots. “After something has been developed in the lab, researchers and companies can examine whether it can also be used on a larger scale and in practical situations with ‘real’ water”, explains project leader Heleen Sombekke.
The Waterlab is not only a test centre but also a place where research, education and scientific communication coincide. “Its prominent place on the campus and its fully glazed exterior make it easy for people to see inside the lab. It’s an extremely open lab. So we invite everyone to come and take a look at the research that goes on here. Then you can see for yourself how we purify the water here”, says Sombekke.
Today’s water sector faces a host of challenges, such as removing micro-pollutants, desalination, drought and water shortages. Through research and development of new technologies for cleaning and reusing wastewater, we are able to reduce the pressure on drinking water and sources of groundwater. The University of Twente has been doing that for 50 years. To celebrate this, the Membrane Science and Technology cluster (MST; Faculty of Science and Technology) is organising Twente membranes Day on 14 April. On that festive day, we will open the Waterlab and present the jubilee book ’50 years of membrane research in Twente’ to Heiner Strathmann, UT professor emeritus and former professor at the Department of Membrane Science and Technology.