PROJECT Analysis of antibiotic resistance and micropollutants biotransformation: bioRGO-enhanced anaerobic MBR and elucidation of degradation products (ANTARES)


Agencia Estatal de Investigación (AEI), Ministerio de Ciencia, Innovación y Universidades (MICIU); Código: PID2019-110346RB-C22




Universidad de Santiago


IP: Dr. Jelena Radjenovic; Co-IP: Dr. Maite Pijuan Vilalta


Dr. Ignasi Rodríguez-Roda Layret, Dr. Oriol Casabella Font



Novel anaerobic wastewater treatment technologies such as anaerobic membrane bioreactor (AnMBR) offer several advantages over aerobic sludge systems, e.g., energy saving, biogas production, resource recovery, lower sludge production, and capability to degrade pollutants persistent to aerobic degradation. Yet, anaerobic processes suffer from long start-up times, low removal rates, and susceptibility to disruptions by organic overloading, which are a consequence of slow interspecies electron transfer (IET) between fermenting bacteria and methanogens. Addition of non-biological conductive materials such as granular activated carbon (GAC) is known to accelerate methanogenesis due to the attachment of bacteria to the surface of GAC, which is used for electron exchange.

In this project, we will investigate the enhancement of anaerobic degradation of persistent pollutants in the presence of biologically reduced graphene oxide (bioRGO). Addition of bioRGO enhances the direct IET due to the gelation and secretion of the redox active species by the microorganisms. The addition of bioRGO to anaerobic community will be investigated in batch scale biochemical methane potential (BMP) tests, and in pilot-scale anaerobic membrane bioreactor (AnMBR). It is expected that bioRGO stimulates the flocculation of anaerobic sludge and thus reduced the membrane fouling.

The main objectives of the ANTARES project are:

i) to understand, engineer and apply bioRGO-enhanced AnMBR for wastewater treatment, with the main focus on the elimination of organic micropollutants and antibiotic resistance genes,

ii) demonstrate improved long-term performance of bioRGO-enhanced AnMBR in terms of reduced membrane fouling and biogas production,

iii) develop and implement high-resolution mass spectrometry methods for the analysis of antibiotics and pharmaceuticals at trace concentrations (pg-ng/L) in wastewater and sludge, and

iv) identify transformation products of target organic pollutants in different aerobic, anaerobic, and anoxic treatment processes and help establish a link with key enzimes and microbial populations involved.

We will aim at demonstrating the multifunctional role of bioRGO that acts as a redox mediator, electron transfer enhancer, adsorbent and microbial gelator. Knowledge generated on the transformation pathways of antibiotics and pharmaceuticals of concern will enable routine analysis of their major degradation products in wastewater and shed light on the impact of specific operation conditions in different aerobic, anoxic and anaerobic wastewater treatment technologies.


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