Cell attachments in wastewater bioremediation

Providing the tools needed by water bio-treatment designers and operators to manage tailor-made innovations in order to create more efficient wastewater treatment processes to remove very complex and rare mixtures of organic water contaminants.

Contaminated groundwater and continuously produced industrial wastewaters are not only a peril to drinking water sources, but represent a part of water resources which must be treated and retained in the hydrologic cycle. Therefore, water treatment technology R&D is an indisputable component of any sustainable land management, among others. In particular, the technological innovations meeting the fundamental limitations of these biotechnologies are in great demand (i.e. the effects of environmental (stress) conditions, cytotoxicity or recalcitrance of some pollutants and slow mass transfer of hydrophobic compounds to the degrading micro-organism as well as the high volumes and frequent need of in line (technology) applications. In this context, the technological use of cell populations with microbial degraders in the form of biofilms and the application of additives that increase pollutant bioavailability are particularly appropriate in all engineered water treatment systems in which diluted pollutants are to be biologically converted. To meet these requirements, the project will develop (fixed) biofilm systems based on applicable knowledge of the complex capability of single cell prokaryotes or eukaryotes to form (reproducibly) these 3-D structures, providing the required (technological) function and properties. To achieve this, it is not only necessary to understand how bacteria and fungi adjust their biochemistry and behaviour to live as large, multi-cellular consortia and what triggers free-floating microbial cells to colonize a solid surface and adjust to a sedentary, multi-cellular existence. It is also necessary to solve tasks connected with the biological, physico-chemical and engineering aspects of the use of a biofilm in water bioremediation. In other words, technological development in the field of water bio-treatments must, in particular, focus on the mode of own application of biodegrader(s) engaged, which represents numerous possibilities for new developments and process upgrading as well as a tailor-made implementation of appropriate treatments. In this context, the project intends to address some questions related to lifetime, drawbacks, organism growth, carrier material and environmental impact. In this context, a trans-national collaborative programme has been set up focused on reactor load / unit systems based on the following research objectives: * Concentration of phenotypically characterized bacterial and fungal strains applicable in a biofilm based water treatment technology with special attention to remediation of pollutant complex mixtures, including a wide range of highly toxic, colour, persistent organic compounds, and (possibly) heavy metals and inorganic background. This will include the development of highly complex strain mixtures with the ability to clean up a medium containing a number of carbon sources by degrading them to wanted extents. * Applicable knowledge about factors triggering and affecting biofilm formation related to carrier material characterization. * Biofilm characterization including functional, biochemical, morphological, as well as compositional aspects with special attention to modern visualization methodology and molecular biology tools. * Biofilm based reactors (i.e. fixed bed reactors for water treatments on site bioscreens for in situ treatments), reducing organics in the absence or presence of inorganics below existing European standards. * Additives affecting the bioavailability of specific pollutants or acting as signal molecules modulating natural biofilm formation. * GMO (Genetically-Modified Organism) application. The innovative element of this project is a technologically significant improvement in bioremediation activities based on the presumption that a cell attachment, performed under in vivo conditions, triggers phenotype changes that optimise the attached cell's capability to degrade / utilize xenobiotics as well as tolerate pollutant toxicity. In addition, the current R&D in this field generally provides no complex solutions required by the biochemical and physiological complexity of (microbial) remediation activity. The application of this knowledge and its low cost will lead to a new quality of fixed film reactors. If used in a water treatment technology, it will offer the following advantages: a) Fixed film systems can treat concentrated wastes directly, without dilution or recycling of the effluent. b) Fixed film systems can tolerate hydraulic overloads, environmental stress conditions and a pollutant specific toxicity better than suspended growth systems. Moreover, the populations of attached biodegraders are applicable both in "pump and treat" systems (membrane reactors, rotating biological contactors or fixed bed reactors) and in permeable reactive barriers (reactive zones / bioscreens). Keywords: cell attachment, biofilm, wastewater, bio-remediation.
Project ID: 
3 100
Start date: 
Project Duration: 
Project costs: 
1 400 000.00€
Technological Area: 
Water Pollution / Treatment
Market Area: 
Water, sewerage, chemical and solid waste treatment plants

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