Tackling global challenges: from Zika to flooding

12 December 2016 by Delft Global Initiative

TU Delft | Global Initiative invests in six more long-term research projects to find concrete solutions that directly improve lives of people living in poverty. The projects range from building houses with waste, low cost MRI-systems to smart turbine pumps for sustainable irrigation and a microchip to diagnose tropical fevers.

These grants enable Delft engineers to contribute to the world’s Sustainable Development Goals.

The aim of the Delft Global research projects is to make an impact and improve people’s live. Close collaboration and co-creation with local partners is crucial for achieving this goal. Therefore Delft Global researchers work in close cooperation with local universities, governmental organisations, companies and NGOs in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia. The granted research projects focus on four areas of expertise: water, energy, health and built environment. These areas have a long research tradition within TU Delft and are closely related to the Sustainable Development Goals. The six granted research projects are:

A home for low-income households in India

The government of India has identified a need for 29.5 million houses for low-income rural households by 2022. For an affordable and sustainable construction, building materials need to be produced locally. This project proposes the use of bio-polymers extracted from agricultural waste and waste water to manufacture water-resistant earthen bricks of good strength and durability. The project will be carried out in collaboration with a NGO, an architect and leading research institutes. The ‘ALAyA’ house is durable, reproducible, make sustainable use of resources, preserves cultural identity and can be built for less than 1600 euro.

TU Delft:             dr. Henk Jonkers, prof. Mark van Loosdrecht, dr. Nelson Mota, dr. Philip Vardon
Partners:             Development Alternatives (India), Indian Institute of Technology,
                         Indian Institute of Sciences, Wabag India, Arizona State University,
                         Rain foundation (the Netherlands), ETH Zurich
Country:              India

Palm oil waste as an opportunity for poor local communities  

Palm oil industry in South East Asia has a controversial position. It generates millions of jobs, but it is also associated with large scale deforestation and waste. This introduces competitive claims on the available resources for poor local communities, which often do not have access to potable water, energy or sanitation. In this project, technology will be developed to convert the Empty Fruit Bunches (EFB) of palm trees into biogas rather than burn them. This biogas can be used by the community for cooking and other purposes. In addition, the researchers will develop a method to treat the waste water so that it can be used as potable and/or irrigation water. These technologies will be developed with and transferred to local entrepreneurs and households to maximise the benefits for the community. 

TU Delft:             dr. Ralph Lindeboom, dr. Henri Spanjers, prof. Jules van Lier
Partners:             Mandalay Technological University (Myanmar), New Britain Palm Oil Limited,
                         PT Bhumireksa Nusajata (Indonesia), 
                         Shahrul bin Ismail - University Malaysia Terengganu, 
                         Sime Darby Research Centre (Malaysia)
Countries:           Indonesia, Myanmar, Papua New Guinea and Malaysia

A sustainable MRI system to diagnose water on the brain (hydrocephalus)

More than 100,000 infants develop hydrocephalus in sub-Saharan Africa every year. Many of these children are inadequately diagnosed and poorly treated due to lack of diagnostic tools, resulting in severe brain damage and ultimately death. In order to provide a sustainable diagnostic tool, researchers will develop an inexpensive and easy-to-use MRI system that is of sufficient quality to diagnose hydrocephalus and manage its surgical treatment in Uganda. Two approaches will be investigated: one based on a hand-wound electromagnet and the second on an array of permanent magnets. Both ‘low tech’ approaches require the development of advanced imaging algorithms. 

TU Delft:             dr. Martin van Gijzen, dr. Rob Remis
Partners:             Mbarara University of Science and Technology (Uganda), CURE
                         Children's Hospital of Uganda, Leiden University Medical Center,
                         Penn State Center for Neural Engineering
Country:             Uganda

Getting Hot: Microchip multiple screening of tropical fevers like Zika

Aedes mosquitoes are transmitters of viruses that can cause tropical diseases that are often accompanied with high fevers that can turn lethal. When a patient has a fever, it is often difficult to quickly make the right diagnosis of the underlying disease. In addition, multiple diseases can coexist in a given region. In this project, a colour sensor chip will be developed to simultaneously detect three viral tropical diseases: Zika, dengue and chikungunya, in a fast and affordable way. The chip, once integrated into a piece of hardware connected to a portable (or satellite) phone - telemedicine - will allow humanitarian missions to access virtually any region on the globe. 

TU Delft:            dr. Eduardo Mendes, dr. Luigi Sasso, dr. Pouyan Boukany
Partner:              University of Western Cape (South Africa)
Country:             South Africa

Amphibious sustainable houses for flood prone areas in Southeast Asia

Multiple urban deltas in Southeast Asia deal with major flood problems. Due to excessive groundwater use, these areas subside relatively fast. In Hagonoy, located in the Manila Bay (Philippines), ground subsides with around 2.5 cm per year. As a result, the daily tidal and fluvial floods worsen and form an enormous impact on the daily life of inhabitants of Hagonoy. By building sustainable amphibious houses, large improvements in living conditions can be gained. This project builds on existing designs for these locally produced, amphibious structures. Further research will be done to optimize, test and build the design, and a pilot project for building four houses will start. Also, a strategy will be developed for scaling up the project and extending it to other regions with similar problems

TU Delft:             Prof. Rob Nijsse, Pieter Ham
Partners:             Philippines: Municipality of Hagonoy, Municipal Construction Company of Hagonoy,
                         Municipality of Malolos, Municipality of Macabebe, Asian Institute of Management;
                         Finch Buildings (the Netherlands), Filippijnengroep Nederland
Country:             the Philippines

Developing agriculture and renewable energy with a smart turbine pump

Feeding an increasing population is a huge global challenge. Intensified irrigation significantly increases harvests and farmers’ income, allowing shifting from subsistence to commercial farming. Fossil-fuel based irrigation technologies are energy-intensive, costly for smallholder farmers and polluting. This project develops a cost-effective, accessible irrigation technology based on renewable energy from the cutting-edge integrated turbine pump. This pump requires no operating costs, little maintenance and reduces environmental impacts. The project will employ an integral, co-creative approach to create an integrated iurbine pump system for a pay-as-you-go irrigation service rather than one-time hardware sales.  

TU Delft:             dr. Maurits Ertsen, dr. Jan Carel Diehl
Partners:             Nepal: Intertech, aQysta, Practical Action; Indonesia: RCE Engineering, Hivos, 
                         KRMW Foundation; Guatemala: Evolucion Energetica; Spain: ICAI-Comillas, 
                         Pontifical University of Madrid
Countries:           Nepal, Indonesia, Guatemala

About TU Delft | Global Initiative

TU Delft | Global Initiative is the platform, portal and booster of science and technology for global development at the TU Delft. Through the TU Delft | Global Initiative, scientists from Delft University of Technology use their expertise to find concrete solutions for problems faced by people in developing countries. Their motto: ‘Science for the people. All people worldwide.’ In close partnership with local scientists and entrepreneurs they aim to make an impact and improve people’s lives. And they’re using cutting-edge science and technology to do it.

More information

Jennifer Kockx, programme manager TU Delft | Global Initiative: J.P.Kockx@tudelft.nl
Ilona van den Brink, press officer TU Delft: I.vandenbrink@tudelft.nl | +31 (0)15 278 42 59.

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