As water resources are under severe pressure, there is a need
to develop smart sustainable systems to clean wastewaters
The project conducted by ERC grantee Michael
Jetten is about studying the diversity and activity
of micro-organisms in their natural environment,
their mutual interactions and their survival and
© Fotolia, 2012
His research focuses on the microbial ecology of
freshwater systems and in particular on the microbial
processes at the very interface between the sediment
and the water column.
Researchers have isolated the microbes responsible for
the anammox reaction (i.e. the removal of ammonium
in environments lacking oxygen like e.g. wastewater)
in freshwater sediments in Dutch drainage ditches and
studied their complete genome.
The anammox are unique microbes with many unusual
properties. Understanding their metabolism and ecological
importance is essential. By using those lab-grown bacteria,
the research's team investigated how the bacteria broke down
nitrites, using oxygen to consume the ammonium and releasing
nitrogen that is harmless for the environment.
The team is now trying to understand which enzyme is produced that enables
This discovery may not only improve our understanding of the
biogeochemical nitrogen cycle but also pave the way for
developing cheaper technology with lower CO2 emissions to
clean wastewater plants for instance.