Prometedora nueva tecnología de Biofilm para el tratamiento de aguas residuales.

22 de noviembre de 2012 at 07:11 Deja un comentario

Posted By  On Nov 21, 2012 In Water Technology & Innovation

Notre Dame Wastewater Samples

Robert Nerenberg, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering and earth sciences at the University of Notre Dame, hasdeveloped a method for wastewater treatment he says may significantly decrease the chemical costs and carbon footprint associated with conventional wastewater treatment.

A greater number of wastewater treatment plants use biological nutrient removal, which typically requires additional chemicals to work effectively. This might include a chemical that provides an external electron donor, or else a carbon source, such as methanol or ethanol. Typically, these types of chemicals are expensive, toxic, and also have a significant carbon footprint.

Gasses including hydrogenmethane, and oxygen are inexpensive and can help with microbial processes, including those that aid in water treatment. They have rarely been used as electron donors in wastewater treatment because they have a low solubility.

The biofilm reactor technology on which Nerenberg is working would directly deliver the gas to the biofilm, which eliminates these problems. He is studying the feasibility of using various inorganic or gaseous compounds — including sulfur, sulfur dioxide, sulfite, hydrogen sulfite, and methane — for delivery to membrane biofilm reactors.

As Nerenberg explained in a 2005 seminar presenation, membrane biofilm reactor (MBfR) technology “is a novel system that uses membranes to supply dissolved gas directly to a biofilm growing on the membrane surface.”

He adds:

MBfRs are not membrane bioreactors (MBRs). An MBR is a biological treatment process where a membrane is used to separate biomass from the effluent water, substituting for a clarifier. Because MBRs act as filters, they are susceptible to fouling by biofilms or other materials that accumulate at the membrane surface. In contrast, in MBfRs a gaseous substrate moves across the membrane, while the naturally-forming biofilm on the outer surface catalyzes desired reactions. Since the pores of the membrane are hydrophobic, water and bacteria do not penetrate and block them. The combination of a membrane for gas delivery as well as for biofilm support led to the name Membrane-Biofilm Reactor.

As the university explains in a press release:

Many of these compounds are waste products of other industries and can be much more cost effective and sustainable than the carbon compounds currently used in BNR processes. Elemental sulfur, for example, is a waste product from a number of industries, including oil refining and coal or gas-burning refining plants, and in many cases these industries would be happy to provide the sulfur for free to entities willing to remove it. The research thus also offers a means to transform a waste product into a valuable resource.

Membrane-biofilm reactor technology has been demonstrated in pilot testing. The approach is being scaled to work in larger treatment operations.

Robert Nerenberg

Nerenberg received the Water Environment Research Foundation Endowment for Innovation in Applied Water Quality Research 2012 Paul L. Busch Award. This award of $100,000 “recognizes an outstanding individual whose ongoing efforts contribute significantly to water quality research and its practical application in the water environment.”

This funding and recognition should help the work move forward. Nerenberg is reportedly focusing now on applying the approach to work with sulfur and sulfur dioxide, which he says possess the greatest potential for immediate application. He is working with the Hampton Roads Sanitation District in Virginia, where there have been preliminary denitrification tests with both sulfur and sulfur dioxide.

The research should ultimately determine the optimal applications and configurations of membrane-biofilm reactor technology that would be able to decrease wastewater treatment costs while increasing the operation’s sustainability.

Images courtesy The University of Notre Dame.

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noviembre 2012

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