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Water in a loop: how to combat water scarcity on remote islands

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BY SARAH WILD

Every summer, thousands of tourists travel to Greece’s idyllic islands to enjoy their sunny beaches. Even the global pandemic couldn’t keep visitors away, but water scarcity might. Many Greek islands survive on water imports and are struggling to meet residents’ and agriculture’s water needs – let alone those of tourists.

These islands illustrate the difficulties faced in other parts of Europe. Climate change is making extreme weather events such as drought more frequent, while burgeoning population numbers and competing priorities, such as agriculture and tourism, mean that there is not enough fresh water to go around. About one in five people in the Mediterranean region suffer from constant water stress – when demand exceeds availability – according to the European Commission.

To address these issues, the project HYDROUSA is piloting its water technologies at sites on three Greek islands.

‘It’s about tackling water scarcity issues in small and decentralised remote regions in the Mediterranean,’ explained Professor Simos Malamis, a water systems specialist at the National Technical University of Athens, Greece and coordinator of HYDROUSA.

The team, which includes 28 partners in industry, academia and government, develops and integrates different technologies to collect, treat, recycle and reuse water. ‘We want to do this in a sustainable manner, in a loop.’

Sustainable reuse is at the heart of the EU’s circular economy action plan, published in 2020. The bloc aims to ‘double its circular material use rate in the coming decade’, which will involve identifying value in products that have traditionally been considered waste. It has also invested extensively in research projects, such as HYDROUSA, to trial technologies to achieve this circularity and open them up to governments and businesses.

The circular economy includes water loops, in which water is treated and reused, with value being derived from extracted ‘waste’ in the water, such as phosphorus or salts. HYDROUSA is working to create these loops in remote areas to benefit local individuals and industries. It currently has six pilot sites on the three islands, trialling 13 different innovations to show their applicability under different scenarios.

Wastewater

Prof. Malamis’ favourite pilot, on Lesbos, includes the greatest number of integrated technologies, he says. Wastewater from a nearby town arrives at a wastewater treatment plant, where anaerobic bacteria break down the organic matter contained in the wastewater. This step produces biogas, which can be collected and used as energy feedstock. In the second phase, the primary treated wastewater runs through a constructed artificial wetland, which is made up of a number of plant species, which clean the water. The resulting water is then exposed to high-energy ultraviolet light to kill pathogens, after which local farmers can use it to fertilise and irrigate their crops, Prof. Malamis explains.

To show that it is actually safe to use, project researchers are also developing an agroforestry site, irrigated with their treated water.

Meanwhile, on Mykonos, HYDROUSA technologies harvest and store rainwater below ground, so that the water does not evaporate in the sometimes punishing Greek heat, and then disburses the water to households. On the island of Tinos, the project’s technologies help an ecotourist lodge recycle waste water and rainwater, using it to irrigate and fertilise food gardens which in turn feed lodge tourists and residents in the nearby village.

These solutions rely on multiple technologies merged together. ‘We have one system coupled together with another, which are from different companies, integrated, to produce the best result,’ Prof. Malamis said.

To combat water scarcity in remote locations, another research initiative, Project O, is blending technologies into water management modules and demonstrating them at four small sites. Importantly, the modules are mobile and can be installed where there are no other facilities.

Two sites are water utilities in Puglia, Italy and Almendralejo, Spain, with another at a saltwater aqua facility in Eilat, Israel, and one with a textile company in Omis, Croatia.

Small scale

Big water treatment plants, such as those common in large cities, are designed to treat large quantities of water, according to Giulia Molinari, a former manager of Project O and now with IRIS, a company commercialising high voltage technology to clean water and working with the project. ‘It is highly inefficient to replicate them locally for a small scale,’ she said. ‘We are trying to use a lot of different technologies on the small- to medium-scale to tailor the quality to the needs (of the site).’

But the various sites and industries have different water requirements. For example, not all treated water needs to be potable, she says. In industry, wastewater treated to drinking quality would be ‘overengineered’ and needlessly expensive.

At the Puglia site, the water is for people to drink. It comes from an aqueduct, Acquedotto Pugliese, and its quality is variable, sometimes salty, sometimes heavily polluted. This means that the solution needs to be flexible, and also able to cope with comparatively small amounts of water (about 20 cubic metres a day). This situation is very different to those in traditional water management, where every day, large quantities of water are treated in the same way. ‘We can adjust treatment so that we do not treat it too much and use too much energy,’ Molinari said.

Project O’s response to the distinct scenarios has been to create four different modules, each containing a cascade of technologies to address the water requirements at each site. At the aqueduct in Puglia, for example, the module integrates a desalinator (which removes salt from the water) and advanced oxidation techniques (which use chemical processes to remove harmful bacteria and organic pollutants from water).

At the textile factory in Croatia, the team developed a module that uses sunlight to break down toxic organic compounds and disinfect the water, while in Spain sunlight powers advanced oxidation processes and contains adsorption technologies that can collect pollutants, while a control system integrates two technologies. The module used in Israel recovers nutrients from salty water.

Molinari works on a form of advanced oxidation technology that uses high-voltage electromagnetic pulses to break down pollutants. Currently used in the modules at the Puglia and Eilat sites, the short, but powerful bursts of energy damage illness-causing microbes and degrade organic pollutants, including many contaminants of emerging concern.

Both Project O and HYDROUSA are looking to address one of the most pressing problems in water management: how to treat water and reuse it in remote places, where there is no one-size-fits-all solution, without breaking the bank.

Given the interest from industry and municipalities, both think that they have numerous viable solutions to offer. And as fresh water becomes increasingly scarce around the world, governments and companies will be looking for technologies to treat and reuse whatever water sources they have, even if it was once considered waste.

The research in this article was funded by the EU. This article was originally published in Horizon, the EU Research and Innovation Magazine in March 2021.

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Quantum Technologies Can Help Tackle Climate, Hunger, Disease

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Quantum technologies offer huge potential for finding solutions to complex global challenges. But the focus on cybersecurity risks, which are solvable if decision-makers act now, is obscuring their application to the threats of climate, hunger and disease.

Moreover, demand for experts is outpacing available talent and companies are struggling to recruit people in this increasingly competitive and strategic industry. The World Economic Forum’s State of Quantum Computing report and Transitioning to a Quantum-Secure Economy white paper show how business and government leaders can take action.

The report and the white paper draw on insights from global experts and decision-makers among the Forum’s Quantum Economy Network. As investments in quantum technologies by businesses and governments worldwide totalled $35.5 billion by 2022, they show that while private investment is growing rapidly and shifting from venture capital to initial public offerings, companies and organizations are facing a serious shortage of talent.

The only people trained in quantum technologies are highly academic and businesses are struggling to upskill and find qualified individuals with experience in business or engineering. This skills gap means quantum computers, which are based on harnessing the properties of quantum states, will miss the promise of solving vastly complex problems exponentially faster than traditional machines.

Although the technology is nascent, the report and the white paper show how leaders can act now to secure their digital infrastructure from potential quantum computing attacks in the future. Three specific domains of research and industry, with significant economic, environmental and societal opportunities, are highlighted:

  • Atomic, sub-atomic and molecular simulation leading to possible breakthroughs in materials science and biology
  • Optimization and risk management in complex systems
  • Impacts on existing technology areas such as artificial intelligence, cybersecurity security and blockchain

Taken together, they show how businesses can assess quantum readiness and formulate a quantum strategy, build internal capabilities and align with top management and policy-makers on critical focus areas.

“Quantum computing is a fundamentally new way of computing and could dramatically recast our ability to tackle climate change, hunger and disease,” said Derek O’Halloran, Head of the Forum’s platform, Shaping the Future of Digital Economy and New Value Creation. “Its economic promise and potential to render common cryptographic technologies obsolete make it geopolitically strategic. But the knowledge gap and uncertainties that come with an emerging technology make it difficult for decision-makers to act. The report and the white paper aim to demystify quantum computing and give business executives and policy-makers worldwide informed opinion for fact-based decision-making.”

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New EU cybersecurity rules ensure more secure hardware and software products

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Commission has presented a proposal for a new Cyber Resilience Act to protect consumers and businesses from products with inadequate security features. A first ever EU-wide legislation of its kind, it introduces mandatory cybersecurity requirements for products with digital elements, throughout their whole lifecycle.

The Act, announced by President Ursula von der Leyen in September 2021 during her State of the European Union address, and building on the 2020 EU Cybersecurity Strategy and the 2020 EU Security Union Strategy, will ensure that digital products, such as wireless and wired products and software, are more secure for consumers across the EU: in addition to increasing the responsibility of manufacturers by obliging them to provide security support and software updates to address identified vulnerabilities, it will enable consumers to have sufficient information about the cybersecurity of the products they buy and use.

Margrethe Vestager, Executive Vice-President for a Europe Fit for the Digital Age, said: “We deserve to feel safe with the products we buy in the single market. Just as we can trust a toy or a fridge with a CE marking, the Cyber Resilience Act will ensure the connected objects and software we buy comply with strong cybersecurity safeguards. It will put the responsibility where it belongs, with those that place the products on the market.”

Margaritis Schinas, Vice-President for Promoting our European Way of Life, said: “The Cyber Resilience Act is our answer to modern security threats that are now omnipresent through our digital society. The EU has pioneered in creating a cybersecurity ecosystem through rules on critical infrastructure, cybersecurity preparedness and response, and the certification of cybersecurity products. Today, we are completing this ecosystem through an Act that brings security in everyone’s home, in all our businesses and in every product that is interconnected. Cybersecurity is a matter for society, no longer an industry affair.”

Thierry Breton, Commissioner for the Internal Market, said: “When it comes to cybersecurity, Europe is only as strong as its weakest link: be it a vulnerable Member State, or an unsafe product along the supply chain. Computers, phones, household appliances, virtual assistance devices, cars, toys… each and every one of these hundreds of million connected products is a potential entry point for a cyberattack. And yet, today most of the hardware and software products are not subject to any cyber security obligations. By introducing cybersecurity by design, the Cyber Resilience Act will help protect Europe’s economy and our collective security.

With ransomware attacks hitting an organisation every 11 seconds around the globe and the estimated global annual cost of cybercrime reaching €5.5 trillion in 2021 (Joint Research Centre report (2020): “Cybersecurity – Our Digital Anchor, a European perspective”), ensuring a high level of cybersecurity and reducing vulnerabilities in digital products – one of the main avenues for successful attacks – is more important than ever. With the growth in smart and connected products, a cybersecurity incident in one product can have an impact on the entire supply chain, possibly leading to severe disruption of economic and social activities across the internal market, undermining security or even becoming life-threatening.

The measures proposed today are based on the New Legislative Framework for EU product legislation and will lay down:

(a) rules for the placing on the market of products with digital elements to ensure their cybersecurity;

(b) essential requirements for the design, development and production of products with digital elements, and obligations for economic operators in relation to these products;

(c) essential requirements for the vulnerability handling processes put in place by manufacturers to ensure the cybersecurity of products with digital elements during the whole life cycle, and obligations for economic operators in relation to these processes. Manufacturers will also have to report actively exploited vulnerabilities and incidents;

(d) rules on market surveillance and enforcement.

The new rules will rebalance responsibility towards manufacturers, who must ensure conformity with security requirements of products with digital elements that are made available on the EU market. As a result, they will benefit consumers and citizens, as well as businesses using digital products, by enhancing the transparency of the security properties and promoting trust in products with digital elements, as well as by ensuring better protection of their fundamental rights, such as privacy and data protection.

While other jurisdictions around the world look into addressing these issues, the Cyber Resilience Act is likely to become an international point of reference, beyond the EU’s internal market. EU standards based on the Cyber Resilience Act will facilitate its implementation and will be an asset for the EU cybersecurity industry in global markets.

The proposed regulation will apply to all products that are connected either directly or indirectly to another device or network. There are some exceptions for products, for which cybersecurity requirements are already set out in existing EU rules, for example on medical devices, aviation or cars.

Next Steps

It is now for the European Parliament and the Council to examine the draft Cyber Resilience Act. Once adopted, economic operators and Member States will have two years to adapt to the new requirements. An exception to this rule is the reporting obligation on manufacturers for actively exploited vulnerabilities and incidents, which would apply already one year from the date of entry into force, since they require fewer organisational adjustments than the other new obligations. The Commission will regularly review the Cyber Resilience Act and report on its functioning.

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Is a career in graphic design more accessible in 2022?

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Graphic design is a career that is perfect for creative types that don’t want to live like starving artists. It is tailor-made for those that are artistic and have an eye for what makes things look good. This opens the door to get a job doing marketing materials in advertising firms, web design, and other jobs that require graphic images.

Getting a job as a graphic designer is a little more complicated in 2022 than it used to be but it isn’t difficult. If you are just learning and only know how to edit a transparent background but want to get a job as a graphic designer then it’s important to know what the road ahead looks like. In this article, we will go over several things to know about the graphic design job market.

Networking is crucial

In just about any industry it is beneficial to have a network for support throughout your career. However, in graphic design, it is absolutely essential. The problem with graphic design jobs is that many of the new jobs are hidden. They have not advertised anywhere since many hiring managers want somebody that is recommended.

This means that you are going to have to put the word out to your network of friends and associates to let them know that you’re in the job market. Many of them will let you know if there is a position open in their company.

Depending on job listings online or on the company’s website is not going to get you far. It is much better to get a recommendation.

Start out by freelancing

Experience is essential when it comes to getting jobs. The issue is that it is hard to get a job without experience and to get the experience you need a job. The way around this is to freelance so you have some projects under your belt to show a prospective employer. You’ll surely be underpaid in the beginning but as time goes on you will be able to make decent money and have a portfolio to show for it.

Once you have some experience then you can go job hunting and use your portfolio to show that you are capable of getting the work done. There are some designers that will work as freelancers to get experience but will often stick with that as a career instead of working for a company. It is possible to make more money as a freelancer and to have a lot more flexibility in the process.

Always be improving

Being a graphic designer is equal parts creativity and technical knowledge. Since technology is always changing, it is important to stay up on the latest tech. Being creative is like a muscle. You should always be training so you have the chops that employers are looking for.

Make sure to always be a perpetual learner so you can be at the peak of your creativity and technical knowledge.

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