Ceramic membrane at heart of new bioreactor

An above-ground bioreactor that uses a ceramic membrane invented by scientists at the Australian Nuclear Science & Technology Organisation (ANSTO) has been successfully commercialised and sold to the private sector.

The Australian government announced on 22 March 2010 the sale of the intellectual property for “BioGill” technology to Australian clean-tech company, BioGill Environmental Pty Ltd, a manufacturing company based in Sydney.

The system is said to have numerous industrial and environmental applications, including the treatment of grey water, sewage and wastewater from aquaculture, and food and beverage processing. It is also considered to have great potential for cleaning water on ships, offshore platforms and remote islands where protecting sensitive environments is essential.

BioGills are specially built bioreactors that provide ideal accommodation for microbes. By providing the perfect home, above ground and surrounded by oxygen, the microorganisms grow and flourish.

BioGills are manufactured using a Nano-Ceramic Membrane™ incorporated into a bioreactor that effectively operates as both a “stomach” and a “lung”. Bacteria and other microorganisms “eat” waste out of the water and “breathe” air to grow and multiply.

The microorganisms develop on membranes folded to form a series of “gills”. Wastewater travels down between these “gills” and oxygen is freely available, providing the ideal environment for the microbes.

The result is that each BioGill treatment core has an enormous biomass loading, delivering a treating biomass of 10 to 15 times that of conventional biological wastewater treatment systems. This provides accelerated treatment and uses considerably less energy than conventional wastewater treatment systems.

ANSTO’s general manager business development and commercialisation, Doug Cubbin, said he looked forward to seeing the technology’s expansion in the marketplace.

“Through the existing arrangements, BioGills have already been successfully used to treat effluents from breweries, wineries and food manufacturing plants,” Cubbin said. “Passing on the intellectual property will give the company security for further investment and expansion.”