Students’ wastewater filtration system selected for Innovation Challenge


The four PhD students (Kosuke Ikeya, Becky Ryder, John Morley and Iona Anderson) standing outside the Royal School of Mines.

The four PhD students (Kosuke Ikeya, Becky Ryder, John Morley and Iona Anderson) outside the Royal School of Mines.

A team of students at Imperial has developed an innovative system to filter mine wastewater using mining waste materials.

A team of students from the Department of Earth Science and Engineering (ESE) and the Department of Physics at Imperial has developed an innovative system to filter mine wastewater using mining waste materials.

Their idea has made it to the final of the Tapojärvi Innovation Challenge, a competition encouraging students in the raw materials sector to come up with groundbreaking ideas aimed at reducing the environmental impact of the Mining, Stainless Steel and Forest industries.

The team, called Tailoop, is made up of four PhD students: John Morley, Kosuke Ikeya, Iona Anderson and Becky Ryder. They will be traveling to the competition final in Finland on the 27th of October, which will be broadcast live on Tapojärvi's website between 12:00 and 13:30.

Building wastewater filters

Their idea involves building wastewater filters using two mineral types often found in mine tailings – the waste materials left over after the processing of valuable resources extracted from mines.

The filtration system they are designing is able to remove pollutants and harmful particles from wastewater – making it safer to release back into the environment. This filtration system also encourages circular water management by cleaning wastewater to an acceptable standard to then be reused within the mine, reducing a mine’s freshwater consumption.

“The mining industry uses a lot of water, which can lead to significant environmental consequences when the resulting wastewater is released back into the environment without prior treatment. For this reason, finding sustainable and efficient ways to use and manage water in mining is a crucial challenge,” explains Kosuke Ikeya.

Making mining more sustainable

“To address this challenge and make mining more sustainable, our team has come up with a new system to filter and clean the wastewater that comes from mines,” says Becky Ryder.

“Our idea makes use of two mineral types: clays and silicates. These minerals are commonly leftover materials from mining. Clay acts as a super-absorbent sponge that can soak up toxic pollutants like heavy metals, while silicate captures the smaller waste particles in the water,” adds Iona Anderson.

“By reclaiming materials that are usually disposed of as waste, our circular filtration system turns mine waste into a water filtration system to help make mining more sustainable and efficient,” says John Morley.

Next steps

The students have performed preliminary tests within the lab measuring how much iron and copper, and chemical reagents used in mining, can be absorbed by the clay minerals to filter the mine wastewater effectively. They are also working on designing a prototype filter for the fine particle removal by the silicates, and they are using computer simulations, known as Monte Carlo simulations, to determine the financial potential of the system.

The Tapojärvi Innovation Challenge, taking place for the third consecutive year, is organised by Tapojärvi, a Finnish industrial circular economy company specialised in mining, and EIT RawMaterials, an EU-funded Knowledge and Innovation Community aiming to advance Europe’s transition into a sustainable economy.

If Tailoop win the top prize of the competition, which is determined through a combination of public voting as well as judges’ evaluations, they will receive industry support and €10,000 to help develop their filtration system.


Diana Cano Bordajandi

Diana Cano Bordajandi
Department of Earth Science & Engineering

Click to expand or contract

Contact details


Show all stories by this author


Sustainability, Students, Environment, Engineering-Earth-Sci-and-Eng
See more tags