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Better management of water process systems by biotechnological identification and treatment of detrimental micro-organisms and metabolites

Paper production is one of the most water-intensive industrial processes and its effluents have a significant impact on aquatic ecosystems. There is growing insight that a reduction of freshwater consumption and an increase in waste paper recycling rates do in fact contribute to better company results. In response to the economic and environmental pressure, mill managers in many regions of Europe have achieved a drastic reduction in effluent discharges. However, highly closed water loops, increased waste paper recycling rates and the resulting problems of increased slime formation have given rise to a host of other problems. Against this background, the project concept Biotech Control has been charged with the ultimate objective of minimising quality and productivity losses in paper mills despite increasing paper recycling rates, whilst simultaneously minimising freshwater consumption.

Biotech Control was an innovative European project aimed at improving the process water management of paper mills to enhance their productivity and the quality of the papers produced. It was carried out in co-operation with suppliers of biotechnological equipment and hoped to achieve the objective by applying new biotechnological tools for the identification and treatment of detrimental micro-organisms and corresponding metabolites.
The project's ultimate goals were to minimise the quality and productivity losses caused by slime forming micro-organisms in paper mills characterised by increasing paper recycling rates, and to simultaneously minimise the mills' freshwater consumption. The project aimed to develop to maturity forward-looking, biotechnological, slime control tools, and adapt these technologies to the specific needs of the paper industry.

Progress to Date
The research project was completed in February 2003 and met the objectives as stated in the technical annex. All five work packages have been successfully performed.
In this context, slime relevant micro-organisms have been phylogenetically analysed and the design of specific oligonucleotide probes allowed the precise analysis of spatial abundance and distribution directly at their site of action. Developing an industrial on-line biofilm sensor based on the QCM-D technique assured the detection of very small biofilm formation. The combination of the Fast-FISH (Fluorescent In Situ Hybridisation) technique and the QCM-D technique enabled the development of an 'early warning system'. Simultaneously, tailor-made, biologically-sound additives were found for tackling slime formers specifically and metabolites were successfully controlled to increase process stability and product quality.

Slime-relevant micro-organisms were investigated by a cultivation-independent method, the full cycle rRNA approach. This new approach enabled the specific analysis of uncultivable bacteria by establishing a 16S rRNA library, conducting phylogenetic analyses of the retrieved sequences and a subsequent FISH analysis. Design and development of specific 16S-rRNA oligonucleotide probes for slime-relevant microorganisms allowed their specific detection directly at their site of action.
The screening of new dispersants and testing of industrially available enzymes, which can be used to control unavoidable slime formation without having to resort to hazardous biocides, will help minimise ecological and health risks whilst increasing product quality and safety of production processes.
Simultaneously, the QCM-D technique, based on a unique sensor technology for the monitoring of initial biofilm formation, was investigated and verified for its applicability in a new area, the process waters of paper mills. Based on the knowledge obtained, an industrial measurement chamber was designed and built on the premises of Q-Sense. The chamber is flexible and has multiple measuring points for a detailed evaluation of how different flow conditions affect bacterial adhesion.
Laying the basis for future steps in the area of slime formation control research, this combined 'early warning system' identifies relevant microbes and pinpoints slime formation, thus enabling targeted countermeasures to eliminate critical germs. Based on these promising results, research activities will be continued on this important topic. By using these forward-looking tools, the industry will be able to gradually improve its management and control of slime problems, in particular reference to the effects of slime formation on machine operation, corrosion, hygiene and product quality.


Scientist responsible for the project

Hess-Strasse 134
80797 Munich
Germany - DE

Phone: +49 89 12146160
Fax: +49 89 1214636


Project ID QLRT-1999-01389
Organisation Papiertechnische Stiftung
Area 5.3.2
Start date 01 February 2000
Duration (months) 36
Total cost 2 859 805 €
Total EC contribution   1 353 741 €
Status Completed

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