Our Bold Idea
Tapping the potential supplied by nature, we are providing clean water by developing new ways to use microbial communities for important tasks like detoxifying contaminated water, wastewater, sludge, sediment or soil. A new biotechnology used to treat the worldwide problem of low quality water is the hydrogen-based membrane biofilm reactor (MBfR), an environmental biotechnology taken from fundamental research through commercialization activity.
Though most of the Earth is covered with water, very little is safe to drink. According to the World Health Organization, 2 billion people live in unsanitary conditions and do not have access to clean water.
Even in industrialized countries, wastewater treatment facilities have difficulty removing certain contaminants from our water.
In this device, naturally occurring microorganisms join together and create slime (or biofilms) around porous membranes. The biofilm holds them in place close to the hydrogen gas that is pumped through the membrane straws and dispersed, giving the bacteria energy. As the bacteria in the contaminated water respire (or breathe) they chemically alter the contaminants, rendering them harmless. Now commercially available, MBfRs remove perchlorate, trichloroethene, selenate residuals and nitrates.
Bruce Rittmann, PhD
Swette Center for Environmental Biotechnology