At the Beck Research Lab, our team is passionate about pushing the boundaries of science and discovery and bridging the gap between fundamental science and engineering applications.
Ensuring safe and healthy drinking water for millions worldwide through water disinfection is essential. However, conventional methods like chlorination may only be efficient in eliminating some types of pathogenic microorganisms. Additionally, such methods can adversely affect the environment and human health, such as generating harmful by-products or consuming a substantial amount of energy.
Our research lab is dedicated to exploring beyond conventional solutions for water disinfection that are more efficient, sustainable, and affordable. Our testing platform simulates different water quality scenarios, challenges, and disinfection technologies.
Our laboratory strives to create and enhance water disinfection systems that cater to various communities' and regions' unique requirements and preferences. Additionally, we endeavor to share our discoveries and perspectives with fellow researchers, professionals, and policymakers in the field of water treatment and management. Our objective is to enhance the accessibility and abundance of clean and safe water for all.
Fundamental Water Disinfection Research
United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 6.1 outlines the need for universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all by 20301. However, drinking water sources worldwide are heavily contaminated with microbial and chemical contaminants. The Beck Research Lab is an interdisciplinary research center that focuses on the development and use of decentralized systems, appropriate technology, and WASH (water, sanitation, and hygiene) in low-resource contexts. Our diverse team of researchers, engineers, and social scientists are dedicated to finding innovative solutions to the world’s pressing problems. We strive to create projects that are not only efficient, but also sustainable and socially responsible. Through our research, we aim to provide comprehensive, evidence-based solutions that will empower communities to address their development needs.
UV technology has been widely applied to water and wastewater disinfection due to its high sterilization efficiency and property of no disinfection byproduct (DBP) generation. Ultraviolet (UV) light emitting diodes (LEDs) are considered the new frontier of water disinfection because they are smaller, lighter, more robust and more versatile than traditional UV sources while still effective at inactivating bacteria, viruses, and protozoa by damaging their genetic material and cellular or viral structure. This tiny light source, with chips only 1 square millimeter in size, has the potential to transform water disinfection and contribute to preventing outbreaks by inactivating harmful microorganisms at the point of use, such as water taps or shower heads, for a lower energy cost. Our team has begun filling in the gaps in research and applications of UV LEDs for drinking water treatment in rural communities and for integration into wastewater disinfection or reuse processes. We also explore UV LED application in the management of pathogens on surfaces.
UV LED Research and Applications
Our lab is dedicated to advancing the field of surface disinfection by developing novel technologies and standardizing surface disinfection protocols. With funding from the World Health Organization, we aim to improve the safety and efficacy of disinfection processes for various applications, including healthcare, food, water, and infection, prevention and control. By combining expertise from multiple disciplines, including microbiology, chemistry, engineering, and computer science, we are developing innovative solutions for disinfection challenges.
Our laboratory strives to create innovative technologies and techniques that allow treated wastewater to be reused for different applications, including irrigation. Water reuse not only helps preserve critical water resources but also minimizes pollution and improves resilience to droughts and climate change. Nevertheless, water reuse presents various challenges, such as technical, economic, social, and regulatory obstacles, which will require interdisciplinary research and cooperation between stakeholders to overcome.
Microplastics are chemical contaminants of emerging concern, which have been linked to numerous health issues including oxidative stress, cytotoxicity, neurotoxicity, immune system disruption, growth and development inhibition, metabolic disorder and genotoxicity. They have also been shown to have a negative impact on the mammalian gut microbiome. Microplastics can also act as a medium for the transmission of chemical and microbial contaminants. Plastics released to the environment undergo fragmentation and transform into microplastics due to various stressors. Additionally, microplastics may be released into the environment through capsules, personal care products, microbeads or microspheres in cosmetics, cleaning agents and more. An estimated 13 million tonnes of plastics are transferred into water sources. The WHO recently called for more research on the source and concentration of microplastics in drinking water. Although microplastics have been found in Canadian aquatic systems, their fate and transfer have not been thoroughly studied. Our lab aims to investigate microplastic prevalence in freshwater sources in BC as well as potential degradation methods within treatment systems.
Microplastics Detection and Degradation