Membrane cleans water using live bacteria

By Ahmed ElAmin

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Wastewater

An eating, breathing membrane technology uses bacteria to clean
waste water and sewage.

Called a nano-particulate membrane bio-reactor (NMB) the secret of the technology is in the unique membrane, which is inexpensive,says the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (Ansto).

The development of a new technology is part of the wave of solutions being produced to help thefood industry meet various environmental laws preventing excessive waste releases, water use andemissions - which can cost companies millions in fines.

Ansto says its membrane technology was invented by scientist, Tony Taylor. The invention can cheaply make sewage and waste water clean enough to be reused and could cut water use by 60 percent, the organisation claims.

Taylor, a microbiologist, invented a revolutionary membrane bio-reactor that he describes as a simple arrangement of gills that uses bacteria to operate as a lung and a stomach.

"The system literally eats waste matter and breathes air, so is self perpetuating,"​Taylor stated.

Taylor has made a working model of the membrane the size of a fridge freezer that can be used in a house to recyclewaste. He is looking for business partners to help develop and manufacture this size and bigger sizes in thefuture.

"In most similar technologies the biomass -- fungi and bacteria -- this is grown in liquid which means oxygen levels are low and aeration is expensive,"​Taylor said. "My membrane deals with these issues cheaply and effectively so the biomass can effectively do its job of eating all the rubbish and leaving the clean water behind."

Taylor says the membrane can be used for antibiotics and food production, mining, bioremediation and aquaculture.

In the case of aquaculture, the sludge from the sewage treatment process, which collects at the bottom of the bio-reactor can be used to feed prawns and yabbies,he said.

"The NMB delivers so much oxygen to the water that higher organisms such as worms and insects appear in the sludge within 24 hours. This makes for ideal fish food, although some may argue that they'd rather not know what theyeat,"​ Taylor stated.

Membranes and other technologies are being designed to help European food manufacturers complywith Integrated Pollution Prevention Control (IPPC) regulations.

The IPPC regulations were introduced in June 2006. Under the new regulations, all European foodand beverage manufacturers must demonstrate that they are implementing the "best availabletechniques" (BAT) to control water emissions and provide a high level of protection to theenvironment.

The IPPC requirements provide the bloc with an integrated approach to regulating industrialactivities and installations that may cause pollution or other environmental damage. In order tocomply with the new regulations, European food manufacturers must demonstrate that they havesystematically developed proposals to apply BAT.

Membrane filtration is able to produce water to meet municipal drinking, wastewater quality requirements, or industrial specifications for water reuse.

Related topics: Processing & Packaging

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