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Sustainable Environmental Biotechnologies

“ The world we inhabit today teeters between becoming the lovely garden or the barren desert that our contrary impulses strive to bring about. Our future is now closely tied to human creativity…” -  Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (the world leader in positive psychology)

Environmental biotechnology has developed to be a key technological approach to exploit the activity and diversity of microorganisms to remediate negative environmental effects of human societies. Sustainable development, as brought to the public by the Brundtland report “Our common future” 20 years ago, stressed that development of novel technologies must undergo critical evaluation in order to make sure that they do not themselves generate new environmental problems. Our program on Sustainable Environmental Biotechnology aims to fulfil this requirement by focusing on novel methodologies to solve environmental problems using a minimum of non-renewable resources, especially energy and materials. Three major projects are the core of our approach:

Biomembranes are a novel technique for controlling soil moisture and surface micro climate for optimisation of crop production and minimization of surface runoff and soil erosion. Further, these membranes may also be used to affect land surface albedo as a measure against global and local climate change. It is sn objective within the programme to use a minimum of energy during production , and found production of membranes on recycling of agricultural waste products.

There are several ways to capture energy and material resources from waste streams, such as municipal and industrial wastewaters. Anaerobic digestion of sludge separated from the waste streams is the traditional approach for energy recycling, mainly due to focus on sludge dry mass reduction and not biogas production. Development and/or implementation of wastewater treatment technologies as well as optimisation of wastewater treatment operations aimed at maximizing energy output is the primary objective of our Waste to Energy (WE) project. Through research and development work in association with local wastewater industry partners we want to promote sustainable treatment technologies, such as utilisation of anaerobic wastewater treatment systems (eg. UASB) and energy optimisation of wastewater treatment systems. Our approach is pilot scale UASB testing and mathematic modelling for operational optimization of biosolids production.

Our final project for sustainable environmental biotechnologies is design and application of natural treatment systems. We study applications of constructed wetlands as a measure to reduce eutrophication due to agricultural runoff, and the use of reed beds for tertiary treatment of small scale wastewater treatment systems.

Contact person: Torleiv Bilstad (Biomembranes) and Leif Ydstebø