EWB-UK & EAP Education Conference 2012
‘Changing Course: The Global Dimension to Engineering Education’
March 2012Research Panel PaperAuthor: J.T. Radford & R.A. FennerInstitution: University of Cambridge 25
significant health and safety hazards, or an artificial sludge mixed with little control over its physical properties. Thispaper describes the development of a synthetic sludge with well defined physical characteristics that are representative of pit latrine sludge, and uses this to develop new testing procedures for sludge characterisation and the assessment of 'pumpability'. A fluidisation process is also described that extends the capability of vacuum based systems by injectingpressurised water and air into the bottom of an “unpumpable” sludge using low-cost, appropriate technology.
Characterisation of a synthetic sludge
Development of a representative synthetic sludge
For safety and consistency in testing, a synthetic sludge which replicates the range of strength reported for pit latrinesludge was developed using inert materials readily available in the developing world. This was based on the only data inthe literature, from a study conducted by the International Reference Centre for Waste Disposal (IRCWD) in Gaborone,Botswana during the mid-1980s [Bosch & Schertenleib, 1985]. Their report presents the density, water content andviscometer scale reading of 47 samples of pit latrine sludge as shown in Figure 1.
Figure 1: Effect of water content on sludge properties
Sludges were classified according to BHRA strength classes , ranging from “low-“ to “high+” and equivalent to shearstrengths of 20-400Pa at a strain rate of 10/s. This demonstrates the variability of pit latrine sludge (viscosity range: 2-130+, density: 1027-1989kg/m
). There is no correlation between viscosity and water content (R
= 0.2), howeverdensity is strongly negatively correlated to water content. Various synthetic sludge compositions were investigated andlow-cost, readily available materials were considered, including compost, clay, sand, animal feed, maize meal andshredded newspaper. A mixture containing equal parts by dry mass of compost, clay and sand, with 80% water contentwas selected to investigate how varying the composition would affect sludge density and shear strength. The moisturecontent was increased by increments of 5% up to 125% and each resulting sludge characterised. There was concern thatthe large, heavy sand particles would settle out, therefore a second series of tests was conducted on a two componentsludge where the sand was replaced with additional clay. A series of sludges with clay contents ranging from 64% to 85%and constant nominal water content of 105% were then characterised to assess the effect of solid composition on sludgebehaviour, as detailed in Table 1 below.