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The way to clean water is not a single-track road

By: Denise Abrahamsen

At one time, vinyl chloride was found in the groundwater in the Region of Southern Denmark, and part of the reason for why this compound is formed in groundwater is due to chemicals from landfills. When rubbish decomposes, it releases chemicals that can seep into the groundwater.

When water is checked for various chemicals, bacteria and pesticides, the process can take a long time. 

First, a water sample is taken. It is then sent to a laboratory, and it can take a long time for a response to come.

Therefore, Roana de Oliveira Hansen and researchers from SDU NanoSYD have collaborated with WaterCare Guard and Copenhagen Nanosystems to produce a Laptop Lab.

It takes a team to develop a laptop lab: Researchers from SDU NanoSYD (Roana de Oliveira Hansen and Jacek Fiutowski) have been collaborating with Copenhagen Nanosystems and WaterCare Guard to develop the right solution.

‘Copenhagen Nanosystems has a special way of making optical measurements very accurately. The combination of their and our technology now shows that you can actually take your Laptop Lab out into the field and get accurate results right away,’ says Roana de Oliveira Hansen.

Laptop Lab is a portable laboratory the size of a backpack. It can thus be efficiently and easily taken into the field when researchers need to take water samples to check water quality.

The picture showcases how a Laptop Lab looks like, and what it has in it.

Each country has different problems

Roana Hansen and SDU NanoSYD not only work in Denmark but also have projects in India and Brazil. 

‘In India and Brazil, they have different water problems than we have in Denmark,’ says Roana de Oliveira Hansen and continues: ‘In those countries, it’s very common to have bacteria in the water and not chemicals like we have in Denmark.’

In India, they are currently working to solve problems regarding E. coli bacteria, while in Brazil they are investigating a different kind of virus. 

‘It is very difficult to remove bacteria and viruses when you purify water,’ explains Roana de Oliveira Hansen and explains that they are currently in the process of finding a solution to how the water first and foremost can be checked for these bacteria and viruses.

Whereas in Denmark we purify the groundwater and use it as drinking water, in Brazil they use water from the rivers. This also means that the problems in Brazil, for example, are somewhat different than in Denmark.

The infrastructure of different countries plays a crucial role

‘Many countries do not have the same infrastructure as in Denmark,’ says Roana de Oliveira Hansen.

Roana Hansen hopes that raising awareness about the water problems in countries such as India and Brazil can bring about major structural changes.

‘One professor in Brazil [with whom Roana Hansen works] is very politically active, and he is arguing for a new infrastructure to be built in order to solve the problems,’ explains Roana de Oliveira Hansen. 

‘Political powers need to invest in this,’ she continues, and says that individual countries cannot stand alone with the solution.

Roana de Oliveira Hansen also explains that many of the same chemicals, bacteria and viruses can be found the world over. The only difference is whether the different countries have the resources to remove these chemicals, bacteria and viruses.

‘The key to solving the sanitation problem is not only in being able to identify it. Political power is also needed,’ she concludes.

The UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals and their significance

‘If change is to happen quickly, there are many countries that cannot do it alone,’ says Roana de Oliveira Hansen, pointing out that African countries in particular do not have the resources to solve the problems themselves.

She therefore also underlines that the UN has a central role. 

From the above, although it is clear that problems with clean water exist in many countries, the problems come in different varieties. In addition, some countries need more outside help than others. 

The UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals apply to all countries in the world, but if we are to achieve the goals by 2030, it is important to keep in mind that some problems are greater in some countries than in others.

Target 6.a. of Goal 6 states that international cooperation and support for capacity building in developing countries must be expanded by 2030. The sub-goal thus shows that the UN and international cooperation have a crucial role to play, for instance, when it comes to finding infrastructure solutions in the individual countries, which is also what Roana de Oliveira Hansen maintains. 

Water Quality Sensors

Here you can download an overview showing how sensors help checking waterquality.

Water Quality Sensors

Research project in Brazil

Follow the link and read more about NanoSYD's project in Brazil.

Research project in Brazil

Last Updated 27.01.2023