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Partnerships for enhanced engagement in research (PEER) SCIENCE
Cycle 2 (2012 Deadline)

Development and field testing of high performance aluminium oxide-based technologies for fluoride removal in the Ethiopian Rift Valley

PI: Feleke Beshah (Addis Ababa University)
U.S. Partner: David Sabatini (University of Oklahoma)
Project Dates: August 2013 to January 2016

 Ethiopia Partnership Picture 1
The Ethiopian research team at Addis Ababa University (Photo courtesy Dr. Beshah).

The available technologies used for removing fluoride from water such as reverse osmosis, activated alumina, and synthetic resins are difficult to implement in Ethiopia due to their high cost, the need for skilled manpower for system operation and maintenance, and the challenges of ensuring a continuous supply chain for the required chemicals and materials. Relatively simple and low-cost technologies such as the Nalgonda technique and bone char have been tried in Ethiopia, but they have proven inefficient under the prevailing water quality conditions. The objective of this study is to develop, characterize, and evaluate the effectiveness and sustainability of innovative high-capacity aluminum oxide-based materials, composite oxides, and impregnated high surface area adsorbent based technologies for fluoride removal in rural villages of Ethiopia. The project will also look at socioeconomic and entrepreneurial aspects to find ways to make the technologies sustainable in the Ethiopian context. Besides laboratory-based synthesis and characterization of adsorbents, the project will include preliminary field testing of the new materials, as well as assessment of socioeconomic and social entrepreneurship factors and presentation of findings in workshops and training sessions.
According to a recent estimate of the Ethiopian Ministry of Water and Energy, more than 11 million people in Ethiopia are at risk of high fluoride in drinking water in the Rift Valley region. More than 80% of children in the country suffer various degrees of dental fluorosis, and skeletal fluorosis is increasing among adults and the elderly. Thus, there is a pressing need for low-cost, high-capacity, and sustainable water treatment technologies for fluoride removal. For these technologies to be sustainable, they must be efficient, locally available, economically and socially viable, and simple to operate and maintain. While motivated by challenges in rural villages of Ethiopia, the results of this project will also benefit those living in rural communities of other East African countries impacted by fluoride. This project also has an important goal of capacity and human resource development for fluorosis mitigation in Ethiopia. The participation of the Ministry of Water Engineering and relevant NGOs will help to consolidate ties between research and implementation. The results will be disseminated to the scientific community through publications in reviewed journals, and a national workshop is planned to communicate the results to various stakeholders involved.
Summary of Recent Activities
During the last months of 2014, Dr. Beshah and his team focused their efforts on Aluminum Oxide (AO) -amending low cost materials. The idea is to utilize the high surface area of the low cost substrates by precipitating nano-particles of AO onto the surfaces and inside the pore spaces of the substrates. Additionally, the team is trying to develop composite materials which involve cement paste, mortar and concrete.

The amended results are highly promising and currently the team is conducting detailed adsorption experiments. The research results of AO-amended zeolites are being prepared for publication by PhD Student Meseret Desalegn. The team also presented its research during a marketing exhibition organized by Addis Ababa University as part of a promotion program of selected research projects.

In the coming months the team will continue its adsorption studies and investigate the effectiveness of hydrotalcite/clay composites. The team will also begin preliminary field testing of the most promising materials which will involve developing household prototypes and testing using groundwater from multiple sources with different fluoride levels and water quality conditions. The developed technologies and corresponding results will be compared with other technologies being developed by the US partner at the University of Oklahoma. At the end of 2015, the team plans to hold a national workshop where it will present its work and provide technical training.
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