ANAMMOX – Biotechnology at the service of wastewater treatment
As water resources are under severe pressure, there is a need
to develop smart sustainable systems to clean wastewaters
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 oxygen production.
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.