Compass attracts world attention

UAE company develops bio-friendly cleaner that could be sold worldwide

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By  Charlotte McDonald Published  April 29, 2001

Aquaclear eliminates hazardous chlorine|~||~||~|Compass Leisure Products, part of the MKM Group, has come up with a unique idea to keep swimming pools disinfected, but which removes the need to purchase, store and handle hazardous chlorine chemicals. The bio-friendly ‘Aquaclear’ system could even turn out to be a very local hi-tech success story. Compass is now in talks with a UK company about a deal to market the Aquaclear system in Britain.

Aquaclear is now the fully functional system used in the swimming pool at The Wafi residence, Dubai. Other installations have been made at the JW Marriot Hotel Group, the Rydges Plaza Hotel in Dubai and most recently, the Dubai Country Club.

It might not look like the region is equipped to develop such hi-tech systems, but Phil Jones, technical manager for Compass, believes there is room to progress. Even though a UK company developed the hi-tech aspect of Aquaclear, the concept was developed and proven in the UAE at a cost of AED 500,000. “It’s been put together out here, the hardware side if you like; the software, the brains of the system, came from the UK,” says Jones.

Jones says the treatment of swimming pool water could be just the start for a company that is the closest thing the Middle East has to a bio-tech company. As a spin off from Aquaclear, which is purely only for swimming pools, Compass is now in a joint venture with a UK company that’s looking to extend the technology to drinking water, sewage treatment and general water treatment.

Interest in the region is ongoing, with companies such as Transco and other engineering corporations wanting to use sterilisation through methods alternative to bulk chemical systems. “It’s a common problem all over the world in how to effectively treat water,” explains Jones. “In areas where water is at a premium, like in the Middle East, there’s even more interest in efficient processes.”

As the region continues to develop its infrastructure, Jones believes there will be opportunity to develop and sell such hi-tech systems. “I see Dubai as a good place for the region in terms of development and I think the government of Dubai are quite keen on developing ideas outside of purely oil-based revenue and tourism,” he says.

So how does Aquaclear work? Swimming pools are normally treated through a process known as ‘shock-dosing’. This process involves closing pools and pumping heavy amounts of chlorine into the water to try and break down the chlorine by-products. (The ‘chlorine smell’ that everyone is so familiar with is not actually chlorine but the harmful substance chloroform, a by-product of chlorine.)
||**||The Aquaclear unit is fully automatic|~||~||~|
Several problems arise with this type of system. Firstly, shutting down the pool to clean it wastes water. Then there is the problem of having to store and handle chlorine chemicals. Heavily chlorinated pools are not good for the skin, eyes and hair of swimmers and after a while the clarity of the water reduces, giving the pool a dull and ‘dirty’ looking appearance.

Instead of chlorine, the Aquaclear unit adds low concentrations of salt to the water. “The salt in the pool is converted into chlorine on demand by a process called electrolysis using compact, high efficiency cells,” explains Jones. “As the pool needs chlorine, the salt is converted automatically. The chlorine then reverts back to salt as it destroys the bacteria, so then the cycle is repeated.”

The Aquaclear unit is fully automatic and measures chlorine and pH levels, thus producing the correct amount of disinfection at all times. The new process, therefore, uses the same principles as chlorine chemicals but does not involve ‘shock dosing’ treatment. As a result, swimmers don’t suffer from the ‘red eye’ condition so commonly related to heavily chlorinated pools. Another plus is that small amounts of oxygen and ozone are used, leading to a marked improvement in water clarity and sparkle.

So is it entirely necessary to use chlorine at all if the by-products are so harmful? “Chlorine is still the most efficient way of getting rid of any pathogens in the water,” says Jones. “The use of other, bio-friendly products is still on the drawing board. If there was an answer to chlorine, then you wouldn’t have to worry about generating the chlorine in a different way.”

The next step is to perfect the usage of other chemicals. A lot of work has been done on oxygen donors such as peroxides, where the oxygen, rather than chlorine, breaks down the bacteria. But the problem with that is that while it’s relatively easy to kill bacteria in water, keeping the water sterile after that (residual disinfection) is a problem. Chlorine does this most effectively.

For now, however, Compass has come up with a smart solution that’s attracting international attention.
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