Environmental Biotechnology

We focus our research activity on two topics: wastewater treatment and energy from biomasses. Wastewater management is a key topic at worldwide level and water plays a vital role in key sectors of the economy at global level. In fact, water is consumed by people, in agriculture is necessary for crops and livestock, and it is essential in mining and energy resource extraction, manufacturing, and the generation of electricity. In addition to these driving tools, other less controllable factors such as climate change came in the equation. In this context, it is clear the need to invest energy in developing new sustainable solution for the water sector. The exploitation of waste as energy source is a priority topic at both at global and national level. We are partner in the BIOSWEET competence center which aims is the development of sustainable biochemical and thermo chemical biomass conversion technologies to fulfill the Swiss Energy Strategy 2050.

Starting from the need to provide technical solutions to address practical problem of the region in the field of waste and wastewater management, priority research topics are the civil and industrial wastewater management and waste biomass exploitation as energy source. In particular, the focus will be put on implementing modular decentralized solution specifically suited to address the need of both industrial and municipal waste and wastewaters. In the wastewater research we deal with micropollutant, contaminant and organic load removal by exploitation of microbial metabolism and physic chemical processes. In the energy form biomass topic, we deal with converting industrial and agro-food wastes to methane by anaerobic digestion. We address the two research areas combining the engineering approach with a microbiological one: in particular the students will have the opportunity to deal with the:

  • Selection of microbial community in aerobic and anaerobic conditions able to transform organic matter by metabolic pathways.
  • Characterization of the microbial community in terms of structure by molecular fingerprinting, and activity by proteomic analyses.
  • Definition of the process parameters to optimize the biotechnological processes.
  • Designing of the process at lab-scale and pilot scale.
  • Dimensioning of lab scale reactors in continuous and batch mode.
  • Monitoring of the process efficiency by measuring the main physic chemical and biological parameters.
  • Assessment of the energy consumption of the complete process to allow comparison between different treatment technologies.

Specialization in MSE: Energy and Environment & Industrial Technologies.