Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are widely-distributed contaminants that produce hazardous effects on human health, thus development of efficient PAH-removal methods is a worldwide concern. In PAHs-contaminated sites oxygen is rapidly consumed, rendering microorganisms able to use these compounds as a carbon source in the absence of molecular oxygen crucial for PAHs-bioremediation. This project aims at elucidating the mechanisms for the anaerobic degradation of phenanthrene by a novel sulfate-reducing enrichment culture obtained from a natural asphalt lake in order to provide essential information for the development of bioaugmentation methods; the creation of innovative biotechnological tools like engineered enzymes for PAHs-degradation; and the identification of genetic markers for monitoring bioremediation.Read more
Microbial biodegradation is a key factor influencing the quality of oil and, according to current concepts, takes place mostly at the continuous oil-water transition zone in oil reservoirs.
We recently discovered microorganisms in minuscule water droplets (1-3 µl) entrapped in oil from a natural oil seep. In EcOILogy, we propose that biodegradation of oil resources takes place in such minuscule water droplets dispersed in the oil phase which is a shift of paradigm and a new conceptional view for environmental science, -life in oil-. EcOILogy aims to explore this new world investigating the generic principles of life in oil.
Heavy metals such as arsenic, chromium, copper, lead, zink etc. are frequent and hazardous pollutants of groundwater. However, there are no sustainable and economically feasible technologies available to remove heavy metals from aquifers. Pumping groundwater and treating above ground by adsorption to iron oxides is an option which, however, is very costly and needs operation for very long time. Thus, we developed an in situ technology for heavy metal removal by adsorption barriers. In contrast to other proposed nanoparticle technologies our new iron-oxide particles are true colloids which can be injected into sediments like liquids over several meter distances where they precipitate and cover the sediment matrix. Polluted groundwater can then flow through the barrier and heavy metals adsorb to the iron oxide releasing purified water. The new technology will be tested and developed to market readiness level.Read more
Nitrate removal from drinking water and ammonia removal from waste water using bioelectrochemical systems
In Germany, more than 70 % of the water used for drinking water production comes from groundwater reservoirs. Due to intensive livestock farming and usage of fertilizers high concentrations of nitrate are leaching through soils into the groundwater reservoirs.
In my thesis I deal with the removal of nitrate from groundwater using bioelectrochemical systems. In such a system the nitrate is reduced in an electrochemically active biofilm established at the cathode. Harmless elementary nitrogen and water are the products of this reaction.
Biofilms are ubiquitous and may act as reservoir for pathogenic microorganisms. However, little is known about interactions between biofilms and viruses, as most studies focus on bacteria. Enteric viruses enter the water cycle through human feces and are characterized by their high environmental persistence and low infectious doses. The aim of the project is to validate incorporation, persistence and release of enteric viruses into and from aquatic biofilms including physicochemical and biological parameters with an influence thereon.Read more
Optimization of animal drinking water systems for pigs and poultry with respect to microbial biofilms
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