Removing contaminants from raw materials or from industrial waste water by using micro-organisms is a very attractive approach to achieve more sustainable 'cleaning' processes in industry. Such an approach permits energy savings to be achieved and helps to avoid potentially hazardous chemicals.
The Sustainable Energy Research Group has been involved in research utilising bacteria for industrial contaminant control. The work has concentrated on bacteria with magnetic properties which, for example, can be used to immobilize heavy metals from a surrounding solution. These magnetic properties permit removal of bacteria and contaminants from the solution by using a superconducting, permanent or electromagnet.
Certain bacteria naturally possess magnetic properties by containing magnetite crystals which in nature enables them to navigate according to the earth's magnetic field. The group has conducted research on optimising the growth conditions of bacteria cultures and the process conditions for magnetic separation.
Funding for the work on pollution control has come from the Department for Innovation, Universities & Skills (formerly DTI - Department of Trade & Industry), Hepworth Minerals and Chemicals and the University’s School of Civil Engineering and the Environment.