Research


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Research project (§ 26 & § 27)
Duration : 2018-10-01 - 2021-09-30

There is an urgent need for developing novel and sustainable systems to allow controlled delivery of agrochemicals over long periods as well as systems that enable provision of water to crops in order to prevent the negative effects of droughts on crop yields. In view of the fast depletion of ground water reserves, uncertainty of rains of the world over, coupled with the growing food demand due to exponential growth in human population, efficient use of water available for crops has become highly relevant. Hydrogels are characterized by the ability to absorb and retain exceptionally huge amounts of water much greater, in comparison to their weight. This is extremely important since droughts and erratic rainfall patterns attributed to global warming are seriously affecting crop yields even in regions where normal rain is expected. In addition since up to 50 % of nitrogen fertilizer is lost while more than 95% of pesticides and herbicides are released into the environment there is need to develop technologies that guarantees that these agrochemicals do not contaminate the environment. To address these problems current agrochemical delivery and water storage systems are based on non-biodegradable fossil resources whose persistence in the environment are already causing serious environmental pollution problems. Lignin, present in trees (40%) and in agricultural by-products or resulting bioethanol plants is currently under-explored and mainly burned for energy production. Based on these reasons, the major aim of the study is to explore the possibility of producing lignin based biodegradable water and agrochemical controlled release systems using biocatalysts.
Research project (§ 26 & § 27)
Duration : 2018-10-01 - 2021-09-30

The focus of this thesis is the isolation of novel biocatalysts from nature for (bio)polymer processing and recycling. In the last decades the demand for plastics derived from fossil fuels and gas has rapidly grown since they are widely used for clothing, packaging and other short living products. Polymers find this wide range of applications because of their in expensiveness, durability and superior mechanical properties. However, these properties which make them attractive for industry, also cause their biggest disadvantages: they are difficult to be processed under mild conditions and they cannot be degraded in biological pathways, accumulate in the ecosystems and cause several environmental problems such as plastic patches in oceans and rivers. Incineration of plastics causes air pollution while the dispersion in the environment leads to animals’ thread and the entrance in the food chain by the accumulation in fish, with a direct impact on human health. Microorganisms and isolated enzymes have shown to degrade polymers with a heterogeneous atom backbone composition. Enzymes have the big advantage of mild reaction conditions and furthermore high reaction control. This enables the specific step-wise recycling, functionalization and modification. In course of this study, a high throughput system called “Bioactive Microbial Metabolites” (BiMM) core facility located at the Tulln campus will be used to screen a large number of fungi for production of highly active polymer modifying enzymes.
Research project (§ 26 & § 27)
Duration : 2018-04-01 - 2021-03-31

Biogenic waste waters contain significant amounts of nutrients. Their removal in waste water treatment plants is cost and energy intensive. The project “ReNOx 2.0” investigates the simultaneous recovery and industrial utilization of NH4+ & PO43-. Therefore, a zeolite-based process called ion-exchanger-loop-stripping (“ILS”) is used, which has been successfully tested for NH4 +-recovery from sludge liquor in municipal waste water treatment plants in the previous project “ReNOx”. In “ReNOx 2.0” this process is extended for simultaneous phosphate recovery and tested in further applications (digestate, manure, landfill leachate, industrial waste waters). The previous project revealed complex ion exchange interactions on zeolites, which require further modification of the zeolites and process enhancement to fulfill the requirements for novel applications and media. The aims of „ReNOx 2.0“ are 1) to extend the potential areas of application for the ILSprocess, 2) to increase the ammonium recovery by zeolite optimization, 3) to investigate the fixation and energy-saving recovery of phosphorous by using modified zeolite and 4) to achieve process intensification by simultaneous removal and selective recovery of NH4+ &PO43- in a single, optimized process (“ILSplus”). Modified zeolite will be prepared on a lab-scale in a first step according to a novel production process developed at the beginning of “ReNOx 2.0” and then used for simultaneous NH4+ &PO43--recovery (N&P-recovery) from real effluent samples. Afterwards, an existing pilot plant will be adapted for simultaneous N&P-recovery and tested in different operational environments. The industrial feasibility of the ILSplus-process will be evaluated by means of a detailed model of the whole process. The products of ILSplus will be tested for their applicability as N&P-fertilizer, DeNOx-agent or other potential applications. The impact on sectoral and national raw material cycles and its merit will be quantified. The international consortium of “ReNOx 2.0” includes research institutions, plant engineering companies, raw material suppliers and potential customers of ILSplus-plants and products and endeavours the whole process chain to conduct high-quality, interdisciplinary research. “ReNOx 2.0” will provide the basis for compact retrofitting unit-design to enable the economic recovery of excess amounts of NH4+ and PO4 3- from currently unused sources and contribute to the intelligent utilization of national resources especially for the critical raw material phosphorous.

Supervised Theses and Dissertations