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Delft water-purification method promises radical improvement

Delft University Of Technology : 21 November, 2006  (Technical Article)
TU Delft has discovered a method that within a few years will drastically change the way in which we purify water. TU Delft, in partnership with DHV engineering bureau, has developed a compact and environmentally-friendly purification method, in which aerobic bacteria quickly form sinkable granules. An important part of the project's success was the work of TU Delft researcher Merle de Kreuk, who will receive her PHD degree based on this research subject.
With the new aerobic granular sludge technology, aerobic (thus oxygen using) bacteria granules are formed in the water that is to be purified. The great advantage of these granules is that they sink quickly and that all the required biological purifying processes occur within these granules.

The technology therefore offers important advantages when compared to conventional water purifying processes. For example, all the processes can occur in one reactor. Moreover, there is no need to use large re-sinking tanks, such as those used for conventional purification. Such large tanks are needed for this because the existing bacteria granules take much longer to sink than the aerobic granule sludge.

According to Delft PhD researcher Merle de Kreuk, the Nereda TM purification installation requires only a quarter of the space needed for conventional installations. Moreover, Nereda TM uses 30% less energy than the normal purification process. This purification process is suitable for both domestic and industrial waste water.

TU Delft has a long tradition in researching the possibilities of purifying water with aerobic granular sludge. The maturation of the technology is largely due to the research conducted by De Kreuk. During her PhD research with Prof. Mark van Loosdrecht, De Kreuk, working together with DHV engineering bureau and supported by STOWA and STW, solved various technological bottlenecks and expanded the capacity of the test installation from 3 litres per hour to 1,500 litres per hour. DHV now has the final design, which is ready for practical implementation.

The aerobic granular sludge technology is very promising and has been nominated as one of four candidates for the 2006 Process Innovation Prize. The technology is now in the commercialisation phase. In the coming years, De Kreuk will continue to contribute to the project's trajectory as a TU Delft researcher. DHV is currently negotiating with water purification companies to test this purification method on a larger scale. The first practical installation will be realised by the industrial sector.
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