Symphony sounds for sewage treatment

By Liz Wylie -
1 comment
SEWAGE SYMPHONY: Mia Perkins' science project measured the effects of music on waste break down. PHOTO/STUART MUNRO
SEWAGE SYMPHONY: Mia Perkins' science project measured the effects of music on waste break down. PHOTO/STUART MUNRO

Whanganui Intermediate student Mia Perkins has won the 2016 science prize for her Symphonic Sewage project.

Mia's winning study measured the effects of music on bacteria growth and how Mozart's Die Zauberflote (The Magic Flute) was more effective than other music.

As far-fetched as it may sound, Mia's project was based on current practice at sewage plants in Austria and Germany.

A fluent speaker of German language, Mia consulted with Anton Stucki, chief operator of the sewage centre in Treuenbrietzen, near Berlin who started playing Mozart at the plant seven years ago.

"He was really pleased to know that I wanted to base my research on his work and he asked me to send him my data," said Mia.

Stucki believes "the chords and cadences of the compositions speed up the way the organisms work and lead to a quicker breakdown of biomass."

Mia decided to test it for herself and set up her petrie dishes exposing her bacteria to different musical sounds (including Die Zauberflote) over the duration of her project and discovered that Mozart gave the best results.

"I also used music by a Japanese composer and I measured the results over different time frames," said Mia.

She was delighted to win the top on Wednesday because it was also her birthday and says she will make good use of her prize of a wireless Bluetooth speaker.

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