Research Revealed, S01E01: Clean Water, Green Future

By Lewis Walker - 16 March 2023

Episode one of Research Revealed highlights RGU's School of Pharmacy and Life Sciences, focusing on a research project to tackle the global issue of a lack of safe, reliable drinking water. In it, lead researchers to discuss the intricacies of the project, who's involved and how natural, existing material could be key to helping millions of people.

From science to business and social issues to health, Research Revealed will shine a spotlight on schools from every corner of RGU in mini-documentary style videos and further enhance the University’s commitment to growing its culture of research.

Launched this week, and coinciding with British Science Week, the first insight covers a global research project at RGU’s School of Pharmacy and Life Sciences (PALS).

The research explores the possibility of using natural product to combat Earth’s increasing shortage of safe, reliable drinking water, caused in part by cyanobacterial toxin contamination.

The method includes biochar, produced from waste plant material that is burnt to form something similar to charcoal, used as a solid surface where natural microbes live and degrade toxins in water.

This solution would be a far more cost-effective, efficient, and sustainable option for low and middle-income countries to adopt, effectively cutting out the middleman which can limit the accessibility of drinking water for millions around the world.

Work began on the research in 2021 and is still ongoing now, including partnerships with fellow researchers and institutions in Sri Lanka and Brazil, nations that both suffer from clean water issues.

Key to the project in Aberdeen is Linda Lawton, Professor in environmental microbiology at RGU. In the video she explains that at the research mission’s fundamental core is to produce a sustainable solution for all.

“It’s all wrapped together. The sustainability, the cost-efficiency. It’s wrapped together with actually looking after the people. The UN Sustainability Goals - fresh water for all, clean drinking water for every person – we’ll never achieve that through building bigger and better, huge water treatment plants.

“These can be important for city environments but so much of the population are in smaller rural communities where they’re literally collecting water on a small scale, and if we can do that, we can transform the lives of many people.”

The first episode of Research Revealed, ‘Clean Water, Green Future: The Story of Bio-Based Treatment’, can be viewed above as well on RGU’s YouTube channel and across social media.

RGU’s research is focused on making a positive impact on the world by applying collaborative interdisciplinary research expertise to improve quality of life, deliver innovative solutions for business and industry, and contribute towards global sustainability.

The University’s research strategy is focused on growing the quality and impact of its research excellence around four key themes - inclusive and creative societies; the environment, energy and sustainability; health and wellbeing; and living in a digital world.

If you’re an academic at RGU and keen to be featured going forward, please email the comms team at

Len Montgomery in the culture room
The RGU research team involved in the project

Image includes L-R: Len Montgomery, Research Technical Services Officer, RGU; Prof. Linda Lawton, environmental microbiology, RGU; Prof. Christine Edwards, applied microbiology, RGU; Dr Jane Moore, Research Fellow, RGU.

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