Endeavour Awards for Projects Collaboration Using the Orca system at a University Setting

By Dr Vera Barbosa

The Endeavour Awards which were announced during the LEAP 4 event last month recognized the planning and hard work of young scientists doing their Masters’ degree project at University College London and Kings College London in collaboration with ProEconomy Ltd, who provided them with an Orca copper and silver ionisation system.

How does copper silver ionisation work?

  • Copper and silver ionisation (CSI) involves the generation of copper and silver ions in water by water flowing through a turbine of a flow sensor.
  • This sends a signal to the control unit, which then passes a low DC current between two copper and two silver electrodes located in an electrode chamber.
  • The current causes ionisation, i.e. the release of copper and silver ions into the flowing water.
  • Being electrically charged the copper and silver ions seek opposite polarity and find this in the negatively charged sites on cell wall of bacteria, such as Legionella, Pseudomonas and coli.
  • The ions distort and weaken the cell wall and then damage the cell by binding at specific sites to DNA, RNA, cellular protein and respiratory enzymes denying all life support systems to the cell, causing death.

The system is a relatively new modality for the control of Legionella, Pseudomonas and other pathogens in water systems. The use of CSI was first recorded in the USA in 1990 (Lin et al. 2011), although it was pioneered by NASA in the 1960s (Albright et al. 1967). The ProEconomy CSI system is known by its trade name Orca.

What were the collaboration projects about?

The projects carried out at the labs at UCL investigated various aspects of the system including:

‘Inactivation of the bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa by CSI used for Legionella control’

‘Water discoloration and the staining of sinks where CSI is being used for Legionella and Pseudomonas control’

‘The tarnishing of sterilised medical instruments by water being treated with CSI for Legionella and Pseudomonas control’

‘Energy saving and carbon footprint reduction by reducing water temperature and using CSI for pathogens control in water systems.’

These projects results showed that:

  • Medical instruments are typically made of austenitic stainless steel with strong corrosion resistance, however; tarnishing or corrosion of instruments is not an uncommon occurrence in hospitals (Brugirard, Guiraldenq & Mazille, 1991). There are claims that suggest that Cu and Ag ions in water can induce chemical interactions with stainless steel, leading to corrosion (Cooper et al. 1971). Therefore, this study aimed to determine the relationship between the CSI treatment and tarnishing of instruments. Tarnishing of medical equipment was not due to Cu or Ag ions but to the water softeners used. This phenomenon occurs in situations where Cl concentration is high or halogenated softening salts have been used. The strong ionic pull of the softened water may cause pitting corrosion to occur. Pitting corrosion occurs when the passive layer of the stainless steel is removed by free Clin the water.
  • Yellow and white stains were observed on the tiles surface after one week and became more apparent over time in both Orca and tap water while there was no obvious change in the tiles in deionised water. The white stains may be due to a mixture of the lime scale and trace silver chloride in the test sample, while in tap water the colour of stains may be attributed to the calcium carbonate mixed with sulphate ions and impurities. After a period of time grey-purple colouring might occur caused by photodecomposition and not due to silver ions.
  • Control of high levels of aeruginosa was achieved with increasing levels of Cu and Ag ions. Figure 1 shows P. aeruginosa concentration (cfu/ml) at 0.6 mg/L Cu and 0.06 mg/L Ag, compared with the control tap water and deionised water. Figure 1 shows rapid increase in P. aeruginosa from 1.0 ×108 to 8.2 ×108 cfu/ml during 24 hours when the tap water was used instead of Orca water. Very little cell growth was observed in DI water as there was no carbon source.

water hygiene - legionella

Figure 1: P. aeruginosa concentration versus time (Cu and Ag levels in water = 0.6/0.06 mg/L Cu/Ag; P. aeruginosa starting concentration in samples = 1.0 x 10-8)

  • Energy calculations showed savings of 33% as a result of lowering water temperature in the premises. Figure 2 shows the savings in energy and carbon footprint.

legionella and pseudenomas

Figure 2: Annual energy use and total carbon footprint with reduction and without reduction in water temperature in the Morgan Stanley building.


The Endeavour Awards Prizes

1st prize – Choice of over 775 activities, including exclusive Champagne Balloon Flights for two, ultimate tailoring experience in London, luxury hotel Spa break for two, Tandem Skydives for four or an Ultimate Track Day, to a value of £1000.  It was won by Leo (Zhibin Ma) from UCL who did a project on Pseudomonas control using the Orca CSI system.

2nd prize – Choice of over 600 experiences, including Rally Driving, Deluxe Spa Days, Country Pursuits, Thames Sightseeing and London Eye for Four, Recording Studio Session, Aerobatic Flights, Personal Shopping, Motor Racing and Eagle Handling. It was won by Diego Jimenez (UCL) and Daniel Wong (KCL), who did a joint project on energy saving using the Orca CSI system.

3rd prize – Choice from an array of over 400 interests, hobbies and activities including RIB power-boating on the Thames, supercar driving around a racetrack, hot air balloon options all over the countryside, or sushi-making classes for food lovers to a value of £100. It was won by Vanessa Onuogu from UCL who did a project on what causes medical equipment tarnishing.


Albright C.F., Nachum R., Lechtman M.D. (1967). Development of an electrolytic silver-ion generator for water sterilization in Apollo spacecraft water systems: Final Report. Apollo Applications Program, Manned Spacecraft Center, NASA:Houston. Available online: http://www.clearwaterpoolsystems.com/nasa-connection.html (Accessed May 2017).

Brugirard J., Guiraldenq P., Mazille H. (1988). Tarnishing and Corrosion of Semi-Precious Alloys for Dental Applications. Key Engineering Materials Vols. 20-28:1703-1709.

Cooper W., Jones, P. and Parfitt, G. (1971). Precipitation of silver chloride from homogeneous solution. Kolloid-Zeitschrift und Zeitschrift für Polymere, 246(2), pp.704-709

Lin Y., Stout J.E., Yu V.L. (2011). Controlling Legionella in Hospital Drinking Water: An Evidence-Based Review of Disinfection Methods. Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology. 32(2):166-173.

Want to know what went on at LEAP 4?

This is guest blogger, Dr Vera Barbosa’s account of the 4th edition of the Legionella and Environmental Action Platform (LEAP).

This is one of my favourite events I attend each year! I have attended LEAP 2 and 3 held in a lovely rural setting near Milton Keynes and the venue for LEAP 4 in Belgravia, London, did not disappoint!

This year’s event included presentations as well as table discussions. The Society of Chemical Industry (SCI) auditorium was comfortable, with great audio visual resources and it was just the right size for the event.

The first presentation by Dr Mark Garvey, Principal Clinical Scientist in Infection Control for the University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Trust, was entitled Legionella as an emerging pathogen in the water systems of healthcare establishments. He gave an overview of Legionella and Pseudomonas risks and how to deal with them. He pointed out that holistic factors, as well as engineering, are necessary. He concluded that “we’ll never get rid of everything” and that water sampling is key and so is Water Safety Group.

The second presentation by Dr John Cunniffe, Head of the Dept of Medical Microbiology, Wirral University Teaching Hospital, was entitled ‘Pseudomonas – getting to know your enemies’ was everything you want from a conference presentation, i.e. entertaining, informative and relevant. Dr Cunniffe gave a background to the Society of Chemical Industry which he managed to link to the subject of his presentation, which included interesting facts about Pasteur, Darwin, and even Donald Trump. If you ever have an opportunity to attend a

presentation by Dr Cunniffe, do it and you won’t regret it! He concluded that P. Aeruginosa is a very clever organism; it evolved to survive in any environment and can survive in hydrocarbon. It can resistant a large list of antibiotics.

Other presentations comprised:

Dr Birgitta Bedford, Technical Director for ProEconomy, who did a presentation on biofilms and how to control them in water systems.

Dr Elaine Cloutman-Green, Principal Clinical Scientist, Great Ormond Street Hospital, did a very entertaining presentation on assessment – where, when and how. Her take home message was communication is key. She mentioned cake in a couple of occasions, too.

Prof Clive Thompson, from ALS laboratories, presented on the need for a sampling protocol.

Peter Holland, from Atherleigh Park, presented a case study which showed the challenges in taking a building site to a live building in a healthcare environment. His final message was ‘plan ahead and have a contingency plan.’

John Murray, the Compliance Manager for Sodexo UK, did another entertaining presentation on compliance. He said the LEAP attendees should form a knowledge group, considering all the knowledge in the room. I agree!

The results of the UCL/ProEconomy Copper-Silver Ionisation collaboration project were presented at the event by the MSc students’ supervisor Dr Lena Ciric (Lecturer in Environmental Engineering, Environmental Systems Engineering MSc Programme Director, University College London). The projects were on the performance of copper and silver ionisation for the prevention of biofilms formation, disruption of mature biofilms, inactivation of Pseudomonas, the cause of ceramic staining and metal instruments tarnishing and the how it might reduce carbon emissions. The results for biofilm were inconclusive and need further investigation, but the other results showed that staining of ceramics and tarnishing of metal equipment was due to water chemistry and not copper-silver ionisation. A significant decrease (>82%) in P. aeruginosa was also shown.

Byron Bedford, Managing Director for ProEconomy, did a presentation on how to control pathogen in water systems using copper and silver ionisation. He also announced the winners of the Endeavour Awards and the winning projects were: 1st place for the Pseudomonas project carried out by Ma Zhibin from UCL; 2nd place for the carbon emissions reduction project by Diego Jimenez from UCL and Daniel Wang from KCL; and 3rd place went to the tarnishing of medical equipment project. I was involved in the project’s coordination and was very proud of all students for their hard work with the projects.

LEAP is a not-for-profit event and this year’s beneficiary charity was Caminos de Agua, which is a charity that promotes rainwater harvesting ensuring rural communities in Central America, including Mexico, Honduras, and the Dominican Republic, have access to safe water for their families.

The unique L.E.A.P. format of table sessions also took place in the afternoon. The discussions going on in the five tables were:

A practical look at fixtures and fittings, led by John Murray and Dr Birgitta Bedford.

Pseudomonas, led by Dr Elaine Cloutman-Green and Dr John Cunniffe.

Legionella and hospital acquired infections led by Claire Hennessey and Dr Mark Garvey.

Chemical and Microbial Analysis, led by Prof Clive Thompson and Bjorn Nielson.

Another great event from LEAP! Looking forward to the 2018 event already!

Dr V Barbosa is a consultant research scientist, specializing in water treatment and pollution control.

Legionella Event 2017


By , ProEconomy Sales Director

The L.E.A.P event was set up in 2013 by the team at Manta Workshops to bring together like minded individuals passionate about water quality. By sharing knowledge, not only with leading authorities in the water industry but also with those ‘on the front line’, L.E.A.P aims to educate and motivate for an improved water quality future. The ethos at Manta Workshops (the organisers of L.E.A.P. events) is simple. Power is gained by sharing knowledge not hoarding it.

The Water Quality Forum was set up to share ideas, solutions and strategies about Legionella, Pseudomonas and Water Quality. It was an open forum for infection control, facilities, estates and procurement, that helps industry colleagues pool their collective knowledge.

2017 brings the 4th L.E.A.P event that will be held on Wednesday 21st June at The Society of Chemical Industry (SCI) Headquarters in Belgravia.

L.E.A.P. 4 has evolved to a central London location at SCI which offers a fantastic set up and we’re confident the guests will find it to be another great event. The auditorium set up will enable us to share more information and annual L.E.A.P. attendees can be confident that the speakers will be available throughout the day with ample Q&A and access available.

The 2017 event will remain true to its source as a water quality event aimed at Legionella and Pseudomonas control.

CPD points and certificates are available for the one day L.E.A.P. 4 event covering waterborne pathogens.

Feedback from previous L.E.A.P event include:

‘This was a brilliant event. The discussion groups worked wonderfully. It was extremely informative, interesting and engaging. The room was full of very knowledgeable people in a large variety of areas of water quality, all happy to share their knowledge and experience. Looking forward to the next one!’

‘Have benefited from the like experience from others in the groups and will go away with options to explore.’

‘Very enjoyable event where I have learned on-going day to day operational issues within healthcare and the importance of correct designs.’

The L.E.A.P 4 Event is now open for bookings. If water quality is a subject that you’re interested in, why not come and join us? We’re confident you’ll find the speakers informative, have ideas to consider and a good networking opportunity with other like minded delegates.

The Earlybird Price is £150pp for NHS and £225 for non-NHS delegates.

Sponsorship packages are also available. Please see the website for details: Manta Workshops

ProEconomy Ltd are a key sponsor of the event and look forward to the announcement and 30 minute presentation of the Masters students from UCL and KCL competing for the Endeavour Awards later in the day. Studies are being carried out on the inactivation of Pseudomonas aeruginosa following CuAg Ionisation, the prevention and disruption of mature biofilm using copper and silver ionisation, why silver staining occurs and energy savings. ProEconomy wish them well and look forward to the results. #endeavourawards #Proeconomyltd