BTO mansam - BTO 2018.094

Nanostructures on pipe walls against regrowth - Executive Summary - Follow nanotechnology developments, but focus on PE production improvement for the control of regrowth on pipe materials


Nanotechnology offers new opportunities to improve the properties of materials by modifying material structures at the molecular or atomic levels. The modification of the surface structure of pipe materials could over time make it possible to reduce the regrowth potential of drinking water pipes, but there are as yet no ready-to-use solutions available for this purpose. There remain too many knowledge gaps concerning safety, regulations, effectiveness, costs and lifespan, to point to a nanotechnology development that is usable. At this time, there are probably easier ways of improving the regrowth properties of (PE) pipe materials than through nanotechnology; for example, by making modifications to the production process. Preference should be given to the joint pursuit of the latter course, while following developments in nanotechnology in a passive manner for the time being.

Interest: possible reduction of regrowth potential on pipes Nano- and microtechnology makes it possible to manipulate material structures at the molecular or atomic level, and thereby change the macroscopic properties. Nanotechnology has already produced basic new insights and applications, for example, in electronics, medicine and food technology. Perhaps nanotechnology can also contribute to reducing the regrowth potential on pipe walls in drinking water distribution networks. The growth of microorganisms on pipe walls can lead to a deterioration of the microbial water quality and to problems with the water’s coloration or odour. This exploratory research, within the Joint Research Programme, on the application of nanotechnology at drinking water utilities focused on the practicability of the introduction of nanotechnology, and on follow-up steps which could bring its possible application within reach.

Approach: literature study, research on framework conditions and workshop The research took a broad approach, which incorporated the perspectives on a possible future development process of the different stakeholders: water utilities (the end-users), producers and manufacturers of water pipes, and scientists. A literature study provided an overview of the current nanotechnological possibilities. With the contributions from four researchers in the areas of regulations, asset management, and chemical and microbial safety, the framework conditions were established for the use of possible new nanotechnological materials in drinking water. With a view to sharing knowledge and to further refining the framework conditions and issues of concern, a workshop was organised with experts from water utilities (Dunea, Evides, PWN), pipe producers (Pipelife, Sabic, Waterlaboratorium Noord, Wavin) and research organisations (Kiwa Technology, KWR, University of Twente).

Report: This research is described in the report Nanostructuren op leidingwanden tegen nagroei – een verkenning van mogelijkheden en randvoorwaarden (BTO 2018.094).

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