Waste Management


Bioremediation - metabolizing waste

Bioremediation is a technique that uses microorganism to clean waste produced by us humans. It is based on the natural ability of microorganisms to metabolize a wide range of compounds. While metabolizing, microoganisms break down the compound, turning it into harmless, natural substances.At EPFL, several project use the remarkable properties of microorganisms to clean water and soils. 


Bioremediation of organic pollutants in soils and aquifers

The main objective of this research is to develop treatment technologies to remediate soils and aquifers polluted with different organic pollutants where the metabolic activity of bacteria as well as plants and their rhizosphere is used. Fundamental aspects such as characterization of the microorganisms and microbial communities involved, their molecular biology, biochemistry and physiology, as well as applied aspects such as the design of monitoring tools are investigated.

Research Lab: prof. Christof Holliger, Laboratory for Environmental Biotechnology


Metal Bioremediation: Uranium, Arsenic, Selenium
Toxic metals are difficult to remove because they cannot be degraded like organic compounds. However, depending on the chemical form of the metal, its toxicity can vary greatly.  
We use bacterial metabolism to transform toxic metals, such as uranium, selenium and arsenic into less toxic forms. More specifically, this entails forming solid phases from the soluble metals and thus, making the metals less bioavailable. Microorganisms indigenous to most soils and aquatic ecosystems can carry out this transformation when provided with the right substances. The metals turn into minerals that no longer pose a threat to water quality.

Research Lab: Rizlan Bernier-Latmani, Environmental Microbiology Laboratory

Biodegradability Prediction

Biodegradation is the ability of microorganisms to convert complex organic compounds into simpler ones that can be integrated into the natural biogeochemical cycles. Due to the increased of pollutants into the environment, it is useful to predict whether a particular compound is biodegradable and if alternate routes can be engineered for compounds already known to be biodegradable. We use an existing computational framework (called BNICE) to predict of novel biodegradation pathways of organic pollutants, and give predictions of biodegradability of pollutants of major interest in environment.

Research Lab: prof. Vassily Hatzimanikatis, Laboratory of Computational Systems Biotechnology

Biomass conversion to renewable fuels and chemicals

Our research focus on developing chemical processes for efficient biomas conversion to renewable fuels and chemicals. Several active areas of investigation are described below.

Catalytic reforming of biomass and fermentation-derived molecules to fuels and chemicals

Biomass pretreatment and enzymatic hydrolysis

More information on the Lab page: http://lpdc.epfl.ch/research

Research Lab: prof. Jeremy Luterbacher, Laboratory of Sustainable and Catalytic Processing

Carbon dioxide fixation

Carbon fixation is the process of converting carbon dioxide to organic compounds by living organisms. In addition to photosynthesis this process can also be achieved in the absence of light. Artificial carbon dioxide fixation takes its inspiration from nature, to develop catalysts that transform carbon dioxide into useful compounds, which should help to reduce dependence on petrochemical feedstocks. Research conducted in the LCOM is concerned with the development of new bio-inspired catalysts that transform carbon dioxide into useful chemicals. Many of these catalysts are based on naturally occurring compounds, or slight derivatives of them, and are sometimes combined with nanomaterials to enhance their catalytic performance. The products we have made using these catalysts include medicines, agrochemicals, fine chemicals and fuels.

Research Lab: prof. Paul Dyson, Laboratory of Organometallic and Medicinal Chemistry

Lotus inspired Selective Membranes for Oil Absorbtion

Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eJGszJQ72zA

Research Article: http://www.nature.com/nnano/journal/v3/n6/abs/nnano.2008.136.html

Research Lab: prof. Francesco Stellaci, Supramolecular Nano-Materials and Interfaces Laboratory