30 april 2015

Bacteria: hungry little gluttons

How do bacteria produce biopolymers?

Bacteria scheme

The idea is revolutionary. Starting with the conventional biological process for treating wastewater, bacteria are used to consume the “pollution” thanks to the natural ability of
certain bacteria to absorb a number of fatty acids produced during the fermentation of sludge. They are provided with ample quantities of suitable food, which they happily digest.
Their metabolism then produces polymers, including PHA (polyhydroxylalkanoate), a sort of bacterial “fat”. The process has several major advantages. It reduces oxygen consumption and sludge volume while providing the basic elements for the production of biodegradableplastic. This state-of-the-art technology, which has been trademarked Cella™, is the result of years of research. Since 2002, AnoxKaldnes, a Veolia Water Technologies company, has oriented its R&D in two directions: perfecting the technology that produces PHA as part of wastewater treatment and evaluating the product’s characteristics for potential commercial use. With a bioplastics market that is growing by more than 30% a year, the materials produced from wastewater and sludge now represent a viable alternative and are quickly broadening the range of resources available to the plastics engineering sector.