Published: 15th February 2010
A UNIVERSITY environmental biotech firm which is attracting interest from major water companies has secured its third United States patent.
Advanced Bioprocess Development Ltd has perfected an innovative process for converting toxic ammonia in wastewaters to non-toxic nitrate – creating the prospect of waste treatment at a fraction of the current cost.
The spin-out of Manchester Metropolitan University was granted its first patent in 2003 – for a nitrification process which uses bioparticles (biofilm on glassy coke particles) to oxidise ammonia, as well as remove dissolved organic matter and suspended solids from wastewater.
Medicines and products
Two subsequent inventions – a simple biofilm control device and a moving bed distributor – which allow the process to be applied to many biological processes – were also granted patents.
Research microbiologist and ABD managing director Dr Mike Dempsey said the industry needs constant improvements in its techniques for water cleansing: "Our wastewater in the 21st century contains all sorts of new substances which have their origin in medicines and personal care products.
"So there is a real issue around effective clean-up of used water before it can be returned safely to the aquatic environment.
"The pressure is very much on water companies to be more effective and to reduce costs. In our process, dissolved organic matter and suspended solids are removed by microorganisms and are thus destroyed biologically.
"Our innovative technology, which has a much higher concentration of active biomass than present systems, can treat up to 10 times more wastewater than a plant of the same volume using current technology."
The current nitrification process is not only useful for municipal wastewater treatment but also treatment of other wastewaters that contain toxic ammonia, e.g. from aquaculture and industry.
A pilot-scale feasibililty study has been conducted at United Utilities’ Davyhulme (Manchester) plant, where the ‘activated sludge process’ was pioneered in 1913. This process is still used throughout the world and Mike hopes that his process will have similar success!