Water treatment Membranes Europe

Robot cleaner innovation helps to improve sand filter capacity

Thursday, 14 March 2024

A new collaboration in the Netherlands has resulted in Dutch utility Dunea deploying an innovative robot to handle sand filter cleaning, without downtime.

An automated cleaning solution for sand filters

A new robot has been developed in the Netherlands that can be deployed to help clean sand filters without needing to take them out of action.

Called “schmutzpoetser”, the robot has been co-developed between Dutch utility Dunea and research and development partner, High Tech Alliance.

Over time, sand filters can become blocked, with the filter bed requiring cleaning every three years to remove the sludge while maintaining the purifying biofilm layer.

Previously, when the filter beds are cleaned the top layer is often removed by hand in a manual process that can take the sand filters out of action, reducing water treatment capacity.

The organisations worked together for many years to find a solution to move a robot across the sand bed, without damaging the bed itself.

Project results and learnings

The new Dutch bot is able to clean the top layer of the slow sand filter without having to take the filter out of service, while also retaining bacteria needed for the water purification.

First tests have been completed on the new robotics system, including helping to increase capacity of the sand filter.

According to the High Tech Alliance, filtration speed has been increased: where the water currently passes through the filter as 25/30 cm per hour in the existing process, it can be increased to 50/60 cm per hour using the robot.

“This is the double of capacity with virtually the same investments…an ROI to dream of,” said the alliance. “This provides the customer with more than the desired extra capacity.”

A video can be seen below with further explanation of the process, including English subtitles:

The alliance said the next stage will involve further “development and elaboration of this innovation”.

The innovation learning process

High Tech Alliance was involved in initially investigating the natural functioning of a slow sand filter, before using the information and results to develop several solutions. The development and testing of prototype models then followed.

The organisation said: “Innovation at this level if a long and careful process…because our drinking water is concerned, high standards are imposed. These requirements directly influence the technical requirements of the robotics system.

“During the innovation process, a few “jackets came out of a box”, as a result the original project plan had to be adjusted. Dunea understands very well what innovation is and that is pleasure to experience.”