Using a breakthrough nanoscale membrane technology invented by a group of scientists from ANSTO, an Australian company has received the Australian Water Association award.
“Collaborating with industry and commercialising technology is an important mandate associated with ANSTO research. We are greatly encouraged to see how far this technology has progressed,” said Dr Paul Di Pietro, newly appointed Head of Innovation and Integration at ANSTO.
Ferrero Australia used the technology, now owned and distributed by Sydney clean-tech company BioGill, to improve the management of high sugar waste water generated by the production of chocolate and confectionary products.
The nano-particulate membrane bio-reactor was originally invented by former ANSTO microbiologist Dr Tony Taylor in the previous decade. The technology was recognised with a New Inventors award from ABC TV in 2006.
The license for the nano particulate membrane bioreactor technology was sold to BioGill Environmental Pty Ltd in 2012. BioGill distributes the technology in Australia and internationally for use in aquaculture to provide clean, safe biofiltration to maintain high quality pond water, and to treat many different wastewater streams.
The development of nano-particulate materials originated from research on the innovative Synroc radioactive waste form technology, also developed at ANSTO.
The invention also stemmed from broader ANSTO research into applications for ‘sol-gel’ materials, a matrix of solid nanoparticles dispersed in a liquid for pharmaceutical uses.
The cost-effective technology works by gravity-feeding wastewater and grey water over above-ground nano-ceramic membranes, which provide oxygen rich conditions for bacteria and fungi to multiply. The water goes over and not through a membrane, similar to the gills of fish.
The efficiency of the nano particulate membrane is due to the large amounts of oxidisation that the system achieves. This is done by feeding the waste from a primary treatment source into a series of gills that are surrounded by air. The walls of the gills are made from a ‘special membrane’ that is water tight, while still being porous enough to let nutrients/toxins diffuse across the membrane to the outer side.
|Concept for development of nano particulate membrane bioreactor technology|
The bio-reaction occurs in the walls of the membrane. Cells stick to the sticky outside layer of the membrane and start to form a slimy film of biomass. Fungi and bacteria that comprise the biomass feed on the nutrients that continue to pass through the membrane. The biomass thrives on the air that freely flows around the gills.
BioGill developed the technology into a modular, scalable product that can be implemented in a variety of configurations. It is fundamentally different from conventional waste treatments systems.
This process results in accelerated treatment and less energy usage than convention wastewater treatment systems.
Following a successful pilot, Ferrero retrofitted nine BioGill bioreactors to their existing wastewater treatment process. They have been in operation for more than 15 months.
It is believed to be the first time Biogill has been used directly in food manufacturing.
BioGill was also recently the recipient of a Top 100 Environmental technology award by the Chinese government for the waste treatment technology. BioGill was recognised for the contribution to China’s 3iPET program to address air, soil and water pollution.