Researchers Develop New Mining Technology to Slow Water Evaporation, Generate Energy
Mining companies looking for solutions to water evaporation look no further. The University of Arizona has developed new technology to manage the evaporation of water from mining tailings ponds and reservoirs, while simultaneously generating energy reserves through solar panels.
The breakthrough technology, which is being called Hexocover, consists of floating hexagonal plastic panels that are arranged to fit individual water surface dimensions, forming a cover over the water to slow the evaporation process. In addition, it can also be fitted with solar cells to generate electricity in the process.
“Mining activity typically requires a lot of energy,” said Ardeth Barnhart, University of Arizona Renewable Energy Network Director. “This technology is a great example of how original ideas that develop the use of solar energy to transform industrial processes can have immediate and transformative effects on water and energy use, create positive environmental impact, and provide direct benefits to our economy.”
The panels are fitted with a propulsion system and GPS to allow remote configuration as well as accessibility for the cover to move when water reserves are re-filled.
The unique technology has been invented by Moe Momayez in the Department of Mining and Geological Engineering at the University of Arizona and Nathan Barba, managing partner at RePower Design.
"We needed a way to prevent the evaporation of (tailing pond) water, but we needed a system that could move out of the way when the tailings are being released into the ponds," Barba said. "If we can cover them, we can help with the devastating water shortage problem here in the southwestern U.S. and around the world."
The company also worked with Tech Launch Arizona, the unit of the UA that commercializes inventions from the University research to execute an exclusive license to bring the invention to the market.
"Water conservation is a societal imperative, not just in the Southwest, but around the globe," says Doug Hockstad, director of technology transfer at Tech Launch Arizona. "Technologies like this will help save water, especially in arid environments. Since the University of Arizona has such a strong research history in this area, it's exciting to see that research having a social and economic impact."
The new technology will offer a combination of positive environmental impact by minimizing water evaporation, which is costly for mining companies to replace, as well as generating electricity.
"I’m most excited about the possibilities of fixing a big problem," Barba says. "It’s been interesting to have this original challenge, and then see it develop and get refined and perfected, and now to see it working."
Axora launches global challenge for digital technology
Axora is launching the world’s first international competition to discover new cost-saving digital technology for industrial companies, which can produce rapid benefits within a year.
The Metals & Mining and Oil & Gas sectors have recently experienced budget cuts of 20% on average, driven by a variety of factors including the global pandemic, slump in demand and price wars. The Axora Cost-Saving Technology Challenge aims to transform these industries by discovering innovative, digital solutions that reduce cost fast and pay for themselves, whilst achieving the same or improved productivity, health and safety and sustainability standards.
“While digital solutions can help to get work done quicker and more cost-effectively, they typically require a three-year ROI, and if there’s no flexibility in the budget, a full budget planning cycle is needed to get things moving”, said Dr. Nick Mayhew, Chief Commercial Officer, Axora.
“Yet, extra financial cost is often incurred in delaying digital projects, so customers have asked us to highlight solutions that can have an ‘in year payback’ whereby the cost spent on the solution and deployment will be more than recovered within the budget year - this accelerates the timeline and drives positive business impact, quickly.”
The Axora Cost-Saving Technology Challenge
Axora is keen to learn of any digital cost-saving innovation which: meets the 12-month payback timeframe; can be deployed in any part of the value chain including upstream, downstream or midstream oil and gas, metals processing or mining; and is ready for market. The Axora Cost-Saving Technology Challenge is open to entrepreneurs, start-ups, academics and sector leaders across the world. The competition will be judged by a panel of leading industry experts.
“We’re passionate about supporting our industries and customers through all forms of digital transformation and the cost-saving solutions we are searching for could also provide a lifeline to many mining and metals and oil and gas companies in the current economic climate,” added Dr. Mayhew.
Improving productivity, safety and sustainability
Up to ten finalists will be chosen to pitch their solutions at a digital pitch day later this year, after which Axora will validate the ROI models and vet the solutions. The winner will receive the ‘Axora Market Accelerator’ sales and marketing package worth £10,000. This includes a two-hour workshop, promotion through Axora’s thought leadership content and inclusion into its digital demand engines, providing the opportunity for the winning solution to benefit thousands of industrial companies. Entries are open until May 31. Full details of the competition including terms and conditions can be found here.
To learn more about the Axora B2B digital solutions marketplace read our feature in the latest issue of Mining Global magazine.