Oliver Lawal is like many scientists and engineers in the UV technology field, with intellectual interests that span a wide range. At the University of Manchester England, where he studied electrical, mechanical and software engineering, “I couldn’t decide on one field of study,” recalled Lawal, “so I graduated with multiple degrees and an understanding of several areas.”
Since then, Lawal has lived and worked in six different countries and his expertise contributed to many important projects in UV technology applications. “My first involvement with UV was as a Project Manger in the United Kingdom. I worked on the first large-scale UV installation using variable power electronic ballasts driving low-pressure amalgam lamps,” remembered Lawal. After this, he worked on a UV installation at a nuclear power station in France. Lawal then went on to work on the largest UV wastewater project in the world (at that time) in Auckland, New Zealand.
All of these endeavors have contributed to Lawal’s outlook and vision for UV technology. In this growing field, technology is evolving quickly. Lawal refers to this growth as the water-energy-technology nexus. “We have the ability to help ensure sustainability of our most precious resources for future generations by developing better and better technical solutions to our water and energy stresses,” commented Lawal.
Oliver Lawal’s family has been involved with the energy industry for some time. His grandfathers were motor sport enthusiasts and this helped to stimulate his initial interest in technology and engineering. Yet it was Lawal’s parents’ interest in environmental issues that ultimately led him to a career in water. He recalls his father’s comments about the difference in experiencing oil or water shortages expressed this way: “If we run out of oil tomorrow, we’ll all be driving electric cars. But, if we run out of clean water tomorrow, driving will be the least of our problems.”
Lawal’s professional life is challenging and rewarding. Today, he’s a board member with International Ultraviolet Association (IUVA) and he is president of Aquionics Inc., a company with a 30-year track record in selling and maintaining UV water disinfection technology to municipal and industrial water and wastewater markets in North America. Lawal shares a birthday with Amelia Earhart, and he professes to have the same sense of adventure as her. In his leisure time, he enjoys riding motorcycles and driving racecars, activities that reinforce his passions for technology and adventure.
The UV technology industry has changed since he began his career in the late 90s and it will continue to evolve. “From the perspective of equipment design and operation there is no question that our ability to more accurately predict and control process performance has increased dramatically,” notes Lawal. New techniques such as computational fluid dynamics, microbiological assays, power control and UV-C monitoring are more refined and more commonplace now. “This has resulted in great improvements in energy consumption and a reduction in operational risk,” observes Lawal.
Lawal believes that growth and improvement in UV water disinfection technology has a direct impact on the public health, by controlling pathogens in public water and wastewater supplies. “The sheer breadth of applications seen today, targeting very specific results, is staggering,” says Lawal. “The reduction of endocrine disrupting compounds, total organic compounds, ozone, chloramine, chlorine, cryptosporidium and viruses are commonplace and the applications using them expanding,” he added. Applications that are directly impacted include: ballast water, combined sewage overflows, aquatics, hydraulic fracturing, medical devices, semi-conductors, pharmaceuticals and more.
As president of a leading provider of UV technology, Lawal maintains a focused approach with a close eye towards ethical concerns. “It is important that we do not take shortcuts for short term commercial gains,” he says. “As the sphere and influence of UV technology grows, and new technical solutions like UV-LED’s become available, we need to ensure all stakeholders: regulators, process designers and users understand the critical issues. Regulation is important – it must be robust yet enabling. Process design must be sound and ensure seamless integration with other technologies. And ultimately the technology must be executed in a manner that allows safe and reliable operation.”
There is no doubt that the cleanliness of water impacts the lives of people worldwide. By focusing his life’s work on improving the quality of public water and wastewater with UV technology, Lawal is reiterating his parents’ vision for a cleaner environment and taking the necessary actions to implement this by working towards these goals on a daily basis.