I am an enthusiast in the field of biopolymers production and their application in a circular economy. I did my bachelor and master degree in biomedical sciences with an emphasis in gellan gum production/recovery and application. After I joined a Portuguese research group to study the potential application of biopolymers as cheaper excipients for drugs. With a group of friends, we built a company that applied biopolymers mixtures as preservatives for beverages.
Last year and a half I have been working on as Twente Ph.D. student at Wetsus (water research institute), where we study the possibility of using anaerobic EPS layers as microfiltration membranes to retain slow biodegradable compounds, inside anaerobic reactors for wastewater treatment.
Extracellular Polymeric Substances (EPS) are a mixed group of biopolymeric compounds, produced by microorganisms as secondary metabolites. Different microbial species produce different types of EPS with different practical functions (environment protection, energy storage, communication).
In fields like medicine, food packaging or water treatment, EPS commonly causes PROBLEMS. The EPS enhances the attachment and growth of microorganisms on different surfaces, leading to changes in surface functionality.
In wastewater treatment EPS causes problems when membranes are used. The membrane retains EPS molecules on its surface, resulting in deteriorating filtration properties of the membrane that consequently needs more frequent cleaning replaced.
We look at such EPS layers from a more positive point of view. The layer, by itself, can also be used as a cheap membrane when attached to a cheap carrier material, and with filtration properties similar to commercial microfiltration membranes.
The goal of our project is to build such layers with anaerobic EPS, to use as a retention mechanism for biomass and slow biodegradable compounds inside anaerobic bioreactors.