Ongoing projects

Photoelectrochemical cell optimization for environmental remediation and hydrogen production from waste gas using sunlight. 01/10/2021 - 30/09/2025

Abstract

The production of alternative fuels, and protection of our living environment are two of the most intensively studied topics. Efficient generation of fossil-free fuels at low cost requires the development of new materials and implementation of novel methodologies. On the other hand, cleaning of hazardous substances from waste gasses and air requires ecofriendly technologies. In this project we will tackle both issues simultaneously, by developing fully functional photoelectrochemical systems that degrade organic pollutants in waste gas on one side of the device (photo anode), while producing hydrogen gas on the other side (cathode). Where the oxygen evolution reaction is often the bottleneck in standard photoelectrochemical water splitting, here this issue is circumvented by using organic pollutants as electron donors, that are more easily oxidized than water. The driving force behind the entire process is direct sunlight. Therefore, firstly more solar-responsive photo anode materials will be prepared. After rigorous characterization and screening of the photo-activity, these catalysts are integrated in a fully functional photoelectrochemical test setup, that will enable to deduce all relevant intrinsic kinetic and mass transfer parameters. The latter are used as the input of a multiphysics computational fluid dynamics (CFD) model that will enable to improve the overall process operation and the photoelectrochemical cell design in a convenient way and at low cost. Eventually, based on the outcome of the CFD study a laboratory scale demonstration unit will be constructed to showcase the application potential of this multi-purpose sunlight-driven technology.

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PurpleSky: Unlocking the genomic potential of purple bacteria for microbial food production on H2 and CO2-derived compounds. 01/10/2021 - 30/09/2024

Abstract

Transforming the agriculture-based food system is urgently needed to sustainably feed the fast-growing world population. Microbial biomass production for human nutrition i.e. microbial protein provides a solution, particularly when produced on renewable H2 and CO2-derived compounds (e.g. CH4, CH3OH, HCOOH). Purple non-sulfur bacteria (PNSB) are nutritionally appealing for photoheterotrophic protein production, as shown in our previous research. Despite being metabolic versatility champions, growth and nutritional quality of PNSB grown for aerobic or phototrophic hydrogen- or methylotrophy remains largely unexplored. PurpleSky's overall objective is to elucidate the use of H2 and C1 compounds for PNSB and steer towards nutritious biomass through a unique genome-scale computational approach. The project will pioneer in isolating new PNSB specialists on H2 and C1 compounds. Known and new strains will be tested in-silico for targeted nutritional quality tuning, based on genome-scale metabolic models and flux balance analyses. This mechanism-driven approach will enable to efficiently select best parameter and strain combinations for experimental validation. Finally, bioreactor proofs of concept for aerobic and phototrophic growth will be set up to explore how feeding strategy and photoperiod shape the nutritional quality. PurpleSky's mechanism-driven approach for nutritious microbial protein production is novel and a vital step forward for land- and fossil-free PNSB production.

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Catalysis for CCU: valorisation of CO and CO2 by carbon capture and utilisation. 01/01/2021 - 31/12/2025

Abstract

In this scientific network we study how catalysis can support and improve carbon capture and utililisation. The different kinds of catalysis are studied: homogeneous, heterogeneous, plasma and photocatalysis.

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MicroCoCoNut: Microbial community control for nutritional protein. 01/01/2021 - 31/12/2022

Abstract

Microbial protein is an alternative and sustainable source of protein in animal feed and human food. In this project, a novel production method for microbial protein is investigated on effluents from the food and beverage sector. Previous research for instance demonstrated excellent replacement potential of unsustainable protein sources in aquafeeds. Microbial community control tools will be developed, along with their automation, to optimize the nutritional quality of the biomass. Additionally, with drying as one of the larger cost items, research will optimize drying conditions and explore alternative downstream processing. The project will yield biotechnology to produce a costefficient high-quality microbial protein, facilitating access to the animal feed market. The animal husbandry sector is in urgent demand for alternative protein sources, and several valorization routes are possible, for instance based on licensing to food and beverage companies and/or wastewater technology firms.

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WaterREACT (Water Reuse and Exchange Advanced Computational Tool): A decision support tool for planning circular water use in industry. 01/01/2021 - 31/12/2021

Abstract

Globally we are facing severe water stress and security challenges due to more frequent and serious droughts combined with increasing water demand by society. Industrial activities play a key role in societal water demand, while also frequently being the first to be affected by water shortages. For example, in the region of Flanders (Belgium), nearly a quarter of the gross value added is generated by industrial activities. Flanders is, however, also extremely water stressed with 40-80% of its water resources being utilized and 40% of the water demand being used by Flemish industry. Companies are also the first to lose their 'license to operate' in the event of drought; compromising their ability to generate economic output. The industry itself has voiced concerns about its resilience towards water shortage, yet it also admits to not being prepared to act upon it. Industrial water use is complex in terms of quantities, qualities and dynamics, rendering it difficult to uncover opportunities without the help of holistic computational tools. However, industrial sites offer opportunities for efficient water use and industrial ecology, as individual activities are located in close proximity and show diverse characteristics in terms of demand and supply. Efficient management of water with a focus on using 'alternative water sources' like reclaimed water and rainwater is therefore very important to support a sustainable growth of the Flemish economy. The Blue Deal of the Flemish government puts alternative water sourcing as a key goal, underlining the urgency of the challenge. The objective of the Water Reuse and Exchange Advanced Computational Tool (WaterREACT) is to prototype model code that minimizes water demand within industrial zones from external, 'conventional' sources, i.e. tap water, surface water and groundwater. WaterREACT aims to support planning for circular water and rainwater use at industrial sites. More specifically, the model algorithm will deliver computation-based decision inputs, through calculating scenarios that maximize water exchange based on alternative sources, and thus minimize dependency on conventional sources. Water demand and supply will be matched based on quantity, quality and temporality of the flows. Additionally, the proximity of the supply and demand points is accounted, along with the treatment options to upgrade water quality. Water exchange can be modelled for bilateral and multi-company exchanges. To support decision making, indicators considering water resilience, cost and environmental impacts are calculated for different scenarios. At an early stage of the project, customer demands will be elicited and use to define the minimal viable product and the valorization trajectories.

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Covalent Organic Frameworks: Electrodes for Photoelectrocatalytic Conversion of Carbon Dioxide and VOCs into Ecofriendly Fuels. 01/11/2020 - 31/10/2023

Abstract

The two biggest challenges of the 21st century are: i) air pollution and global warming, and ii) seeking alternative energy sources. To address both these issues, we plan to combine air-treatment with generation of green energy/chemicals as end products, using solar power. In particular, we will focus on photoelectrocatalytic decomposition of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and CO2 to produce hydrogen and formic acid respectively. The efficiency of these reactions is limited with conventionally used aqueous phase with TiO2 or noble metal-based electrodes. We propose to overcome these issues by running a gas phase photoelectrocatalytic cell by metal-free, highly porous and electrochemically stable photoelectrodes. In that context, we will explore the possibility of using Covalent Organic Frameworks (COF) as photoelectrodes. Apart from their high surface area and tunable bandgap, the metal-free COFs are cheap and devoid of leaching. However, their low electrical conductivity presents a hurdle. Here, we will focus on enhancing the optical and electrical conductivity of COFs simultaneously by synthesizing highly conjugated COFs and growing them on carbon fibre cloth (CFC) as binder-free COF-CFC hybrid electrodes. Combining the expertise and facilities of COMOC (UGent) and DuEL groups (UAntwerpen), we plan to optimize the photoelectrochemical reactions with COF-based electrodes. Such optimizations will facilitate the future adoption of our work in a larger industrial setting.

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Plasmonic sensors for the sensitive and selective detection of volatile organic compounds; 01/11/2020 - 31/10/2022

Abstract

The quantitative detection of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) is an essential but challenging task with a broad range of applications: diagnosing disease via breath analysis, monitoring indoor air quality, checking food freshness, detecting explosives, etc. Because of the shortcomings of current gas sensors, the demand for a new generation of selective and sensitive VOC sensors is pressing. This PhD project targets a new type of spectroscopic sensors that tackle this challenge through the combination of (1) nanoscale engineering of light-matter interactions, (2) the growth of thin porous films with a high VOC adsorption affinity, and (3) a biomimetic method to leverage the combined data from an array of partially selective sensors. These concepts will be brought together for the first time through the close collaboration of researchers at two universities and will be demonstrated in the detection of three harmful VOCs in simulated indoor air.

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Combined ESP/photocatalysis for air purification in underground parking garages: a study based on experimental analysis and CFD modelling. 01/11/2020 - 31/10/2021

Abstract

Despite the fact that Europe and Flanders have succeeded in reducing the emission of pollutants into the air, WHO air quality guidelines are not yet within reach. Underground parking garages in particular can promote elevated concentrations of traffic-related pollutants such as PM and NOx, as they accumulate in the building. Especially, ventilated parking garages are hot spots as the pollutants are transferred to the outside environment with a large impact on local ambient air quality. To address this problem, polluted air should be treated before leaving the building. In this project an innovative air purification technology is being considered that combines ESP with photocatalysis to tackle PM and NOx simultaneously. An experimental study will assess the performance of this combined technology under parking garage conditions in terms of PM and NOx removal and degradation. In order to verify the effect of number and location of air purification units on the air quality at the ventilation outlet of parking garages, two existing parking garages are selected as case study. For both, a CFD model for air flow and pollutant dispersion will be developed in which the air purification technology will be virtually implemented. In this way several configurations can be tested. In addition, indoor air quality will be addressed in these models by virtually controlling the available thrust fans in the parking garages.

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AquaPro: Integrated control to produce high-quality microbial protein on food & beverage effluents used as sustainable aquafeed ingredients. 01/11/2020 - 31/10/2021

Abstract

By 2050, the planet will need to carry 9.7 billion people and their gorging consumption, putting major stress on meat production and fisheries alike. Half of the aquatic protein is currently coming from aquaculture, which sources 33% of its feed from wild catch, putting fish stocks and biodiversity at its limits. Single-cell protein (SCP) is proposed as an alternative to traditional aquafeed. This SCP can be produced from local waste streams, which creates a circular solution for the increasing pressure on wild fish stocks. The waste effluents of the economically important food and beverage industries provide major recovery opportunity, as they are produced in vast amounts and typically carry high organic and nutrient loads, while not being contaminated with pathogens or toxic elements. Aerobic heterotrophic bacteria (AHB), present in conventional wastewater treatments, pose an ideal SCP candidate, given their rapid growth rate and high protein content. The AquaPro project aims to establish a quality-steered resource recovery by AHB-based SCP cultivation on a wide variety of food/beverage industrial effluents. An integrated control system based on respirometry in combination with renewable methanol spiking is proposed to steer stability, quality and quantity of the SCP. The high-quality SCP end-product could be valorized as protein ingredient in aquafeed, providing a resource-efficient and sustainable answer to the growing protein gap, within the framework of a circular economy.

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Photoelectrochemical abatement of methane waste with simultaneous energy recovery. 01/10/2020 - 30/09/2022

Abstract

Methane has recently been under attention as the atmospheric methane concentration is increasing more rapidly than initially expected. As methane is the second largest contributor to the enhanced greenhouse effect, this increases the urge for sustainable methane mitigation strategies in contrast to the current handling of methane emissions (e.g. venting). In this project a sustainable methane mitigation strategy, namely photoelectrochemical (PEC) methane degradation, is presented, which has not been studied before. In a PEC cell both mineralization of methane (at the photo-anode) and hydrogen evolution (at the cathode) are combined in a single device that runs solely on (solar) light as the energy input. First, the PEC cell will be optimized by selecting the best performing photo-anode material using the knowledge attained at the Wuhan University of Technology (China), also studying less conventional materials, nanostructures and synthesis strategies. As methane-rich waste streams are often gas mixtures, the influence of different common chemical compounds will be investigated both on overall cell performance, as well as in-situ. Finally, the effect of different reaction conditions will also be studied, as these factors are known to strongly influence photodriven processes. In summary, this project will allow us to evaluate the promise of PEC-technology for energy-efficient abatement of methane waste, while providing valuable new insight into the reaction mechanisms.

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Combined technologies for simultaneous abatement of air pollutants. 01/10/2020 - 30/09/2022

Abstract

Several air cleaning technologies exist, each of them typically efficient against one type of pollutant. Consequently, it is interesting to combine different techniques in one system to remove a broad range of pollutants in one operation. In this way, we intend to solve the problems associated with the individual techniques. To address the challenges and investigate how combined technologies can be optimally integrated into one system, a multiphysics model will be developed for the combined technology, including submodels for all relevant phenomena. In addition, a test facility is being built in which both technologies can be thoroughly tested. Based on correlation of the model results and experiments, a thorough parameter analysis is performed to gain a full understanding into the interaction between both technologies.

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Quantification of nitrogen, phosphorus and protein flows in the food chain in Flanders: indicators for nutrient efficiency and circularity 01/09/2020 - 31/08/2021

Abstract

In NutriFlow, Ghent University, the University of Antwerp, the European Biogas Association and United Experts collaborate to execute material/substance flow analyses (MFA/SFA) for the Flanders Environment Agency (VMM). More specifically, flows of nitrogen, phosphorus and protein are targeted with the agri-food chain. Useful indicator parameters will be derived from these to score the sustainability of managing the related resources and products.

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Biocontrol of Xylella and its vector in olive trees for integrated pest management (BIOVEXO). 01/05/2020 - 30/04/2025

Abstract

BIOVEXO demonstrates a set of new and innovative biopesticides targeting the plant-pathogenic Xylella bacterium and its transmitting spittlebug vector, to fight a disease that seriously threatens olive and almond production in the European Mediterranean region. BIOVEXO's biopesticides will reduce the input of chemical insecticides and will sustainably increase and secure European olive cultivation in its valuable socio-economic context. The products will be tested for use in curative and preventive approaches (integrated pest management, IPM). BIOVEXO will provide a mechanistic understanding of the biopesticides' mode of action to support final product development and will ensure environmental and economic sustainability by performing a life cycle assessment (LCA) and risk, toxicity, and pathogenicity analyses. The University of Antwerp is mainly involved in the LCA activities. Thorough evaluation regarding regulatory compliance will prepare the products for smooth market entry post project.

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CFD-Assisted Design of an Innovative Multiphase Chemical Reactor for Hydrogen Release. 01/05/2020 - 30/04/2024

Abstract

This thesis focuses at designing, optimising, simulating (using computational fluid dynamics, CFD) and testing a multiphase intensified chemical reactors for the fast release of hydrogen from liquid organic hydrogen carrier (LOHC), for its eventual use on-board of ships (with hydrogen-fuelled engines). The reactor will be designed according to the specificity and requirements of the LOHC dehydrogenation chemical reaction, i.e. a slow endothermic heterogeneous catalytic chemical reaction between the LOHC and a catalyst particulate phase, generating high volumes of gas. More specifically, the chemical reaction requires: i) an intimate contact between the liquid phase and the catalyst, ii) an efficient and fast removal of the hydrogen generated without liquid entrainment, iii) an efficient heat transfer for the endothermic catalytic reaction while minimising the thermal stresses on the LOHC, iv) a short contact time between the catalyst and the LOHC, v) processing of high flowrates of LOHC to offset the dehydrogenation slow kinetics, and finally, vi) a compensation for the effect of the ship movements on the gas-liquid interface. Designing this ideal device represents a considerable challenge, and the perfect reactor for this task does not exist yet. However, we will make use of a current trend in chemical reaction engineering that aims at adapting the geometry of chemical reactors so that the elementary steps of a global chemical reaction leading to the desired products are favoured. As part of this thesis, we will establish the building blocks of an automated chemical reactor design procedure: The optimisation of the reactor geometry will be performed using a constrained shape optimisation strategy, from an initial parameterised geometry. The constraints for the optimisation procedure are the mass, energy and momentum balances, evaluated numerically through the use of computational fluid dynamics (CFD), using the open source code OpenFoam. An initial parameterised geometry (chemical reactor configuration to iterate from) is required. The selected doctoral student will first review the potential reactor configurations, but the promotor preliminary proposes a generalisation of the gas-solid vortex reactor (GSVR) concept for multiphase reactor flows (thus defining a Gas Solid Liquid Vortex Reactor, i.e. a GSLVR). This type of centrifugal reactor combines several interesting characteristics. At sufficiently high rotation speed, the effect of gravity can be neglected. The presence of a low pressure zone along it centre axis also allows for a preferred gas outlet. The GSVR is also a centrifugal device, thus combining reaction and separation functions. The parameters to be optimised for this reactor configuration are the number of slots (i.e. entry point for the liquid to the zone where the catalyst is located, the reactive zone), their spacing, the height of the device, the reactive zone chamber diameter, the position of both the LOHC inlet and outlet, as well as the diameter of the exhaust (gas outlet). The "holy grail" of numerical experiments, i.e. without experimental validations, is still far from being a realistic objective in the field of CFD. Experimental validation is required, especially in the context of simulations of turbulent reactive flows using the two fluid model (Eulerian-Eulerian approach). A setup allowing for experimental validation and demonstration will be constructed. The Particle Image Velocimetry (PIV) technique will be used to validate both the liquid flow (liquid phase seeded with tracer particles) and catalyst bed (unseeded PIV). Due to the interdisciplinarity of the proposed research, the student will acquire a comprehensive knowledge in numerous complementary fields – chemical (chemistry and catalysis), mechanical (fluid mechanics), programming (C++®, Python®, CFD, etc.) – at both theoretical, computational and experimental levels.

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BioCatcher: Upgrading waste nitrogen in a biological scrubber to produce ammonium nitrate. 01/05/2020 - 31/10/2021

Abstract

Only around 20% of the N entering the EU agricultural system is converted to finished products for human consumption. This result in large leakage of reactive nitrogen into the environment with negative impacts on soils, water and air, which are associated with health problems and environmental damage. Although nitrogen is a renewable resource, the industrial synthesis of nitrogen to ammonia is highly energy-intense (in the Haber-Bosch process) and releases significant amounts of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. The industrial production of reactive nitrogen can be reduced by recovering nitrogen from waste streams as useful products to apply directly or indirectly (after further processing) as fertilizers. Flanders is designated as a nitrate vulnerable zone, which indicates the need for additional measure to protect and safeguard the environment. This highlights the need to increase nutrient usage efficiency through a more sustainable waste management system targeting the recovery and reuse of nutrients embedded in waste streams. Ammonium-rich liquid streams can be subjected to state-of-the-art stripping and acid scrubbing. Ammonia-rich gases or air with acid scrubbing. The extensive implementation of conventional stripping/scrubbing technology is prevented by several disadvantages: i) high operational costs, and ii) usage and storage of acids posing significant risks to human and environmental health. BioCatcher addresses these challenges as it aims to biologically and sustainably circumvent the use of scrubbing acids. In the project the operational boundaries will be explored and defined to understand the critical parameters. Secondly, a prototype reactor will be tested and optimised to overcome reach maximum concentrations of useful compounds. Finally, the economic viability will be evaluated.

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Nitrogenisor: Microbial technology to generate N2 as neutral gas from urine in Space. 06/03/2020 - 28/02/2022

Abstract

Long-duration human spaceflight has gained more public interest in recent years yet comes with grand and unique engineering challenges. Cabin pressure is predominantly dictated by the amount of inert nitrogen gas present and small losses in long missions may create conditions not fit for life. At present day, no space technology exists to generate lost nitrogen gas from locally available resources. On Earth, nitrogen gas is microbially regenerated with bacteria performing denitrification or anammox, processes which have been successfully applied in for instance wastewater treatment plants. This study aims to extrapolate such microbial technology to space applications, where the nitrogen present in urine of astronauts can be converted to inert nitrogen gas. The "Nitrogenisor" will use partial nitritation/anammox as energy- and resource-efficient process with minimum co-production of carbon dioxide. Application of this process in a membrane-aerated biofilm reactor will enable gravity independent aeration. Nitrogenisor would decrease the need to haul nitrogen gas from Earth, while simultaneously mitigating risks linked to the waste produced on the spaceflight.

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Photocatalytic coated hygienic wall protection materials. 01/03/2020 - 01/11/2021

Abstract

The goal of this POC project is to evaluate and improve the photocatalytic properties of hygienic wall protection materials. The photocatalytic activity relates to four specific properties: (1) the self-cleaning character ('anti-fouling'), (2) air purifying character, (3) antibacterial properties, and (4) color resistance. In order to test and compare various photocatalytic modification strategies, four (ISO) standardized testing procedures will be installed and benchmark experiments on the existing materials will be performed. Next, three different modification strategies will be applied, of which one is based on an existing patented coating protocol developed at DuEL, and two others are completely novel strategies. The modification is considered successful if it results in a firmly attached coating that does not disrupt the original wall protection material properties. If at least one strategy proves to be promising, the project will be continued in phase 2, during which the modified materials will be characterized in more detail, modified with plasmonic materials and tested after which the valorization campaign will be initiated, driven by the industrial partner's business case. Successful application of the results from this POC project will enable to comply with even stricter safety regulations and introduce the modified products in new market segments related to food, pharmacy and healthcare.

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Open city. 01/01/2020 - 31/12/2022

Abstract

This project studies standards and data collected by sensors in the context of an open city, in order to gather information, consolidate data and get insights for the application of these data in company specific cases by pilot projects and application of best practices. These best practices should lead to the adaptation of solutions for the realisation of the vision and positive impact of the open city.

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Chair SDG transition 01/01/2020 - 31/12/2022

Abstract

The objectives of the SDG transition chair are: - development of a set of SDG indicators for provinces and local governments. - study and exploration of research competences for prioritising the SDG's in relation to the provincial policy - stakeholder assessment following the Hexagon issue prioritisation tool.

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PurpleRace: Cost-cutting raceway technology for purple microbiomes, sustainable feed ingredients for healthy fish. 01/01/2020 - 31/12/2021

Abstract

The aquaculture feed and ornamental fish food markets depend mainly on fishmeal as protein source, yet its use is highly controversial as its production relies primarily on fish caught in the wild resulting in overexploitation of natural fish stocks. The use of microbial biomass as protein source for feeds, termed microbial protein, has the potential to mitigate this unsustainable practice. Biomass of purple non-sulfur bacteria (PNSB) is a type of microbial protein with a high protein content, an outstanding protein quality and a high vitamin and pigment content. Its potential use as feed ingredient has been demonstrated, yet research beyond the nutritional value such as health or color improvements is limited or nonexistent. The PurpleRace project is firstly developing a novel production method that will reduce the current high production costs by using raceway technology. Secondly, PurpleRace will provide evidence for the benefits of PNSB as a feed ingredient, resulting in a detailed protocol for the formulation of an ornamental fish food.

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An advanced facility for assessing the impact of particulate matter (PM) mitigation strategies and technologies. 01/01/2020 - 31/12/2021

Abstract

This application relates to the purchase of new infrastructure for setting up an advanced facility for assessing the impact of particulate matter (PM) mitigation strategies and technologies, one of the core domains of the applicants. To this end, accurate generation and quantification of PM is crucial. The research group Sustainable Energy, Air & Water Technology therefore requests two setups to cover all size fractions of PM that are associated with urban air pollution, namely ultrafine PM (<0.1 μm), fine (<2.5 μm) and coarse PM (> 10 μm). With the requested equipment, we can load air with a controlled PM concentration and size distribution, which can be guided to a wind tunnel setup to investigate PM deposition on vegetation or to air purifiers to test the physical removal or chemical transformation of PM. The concentration and distribution of PM is selected such that they mimic PM pollution outdoors and indoors.

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Dioxide to monoxide (D2M): innovative catalysis for CO2 to CO conversion (D2M). 01/01/2020 - 30/09/2021

Abstract

The aim of this project is to study, explore and develop various (catalytic) technologies for the production of CO as platform chemical via conversion of CO2. A technology assessment will subsequently be carried out to evaluate the potential of each technology, pinpointing promising strategies for further development and upscaling. Concrete objectives and criteria The efficiency/productivity of existing homogeneous catalytic systems for CO2 reduction to CO will be mapped out and evaluated to identify the most promising systems to achieve this reduction and to explore ways to improve its larger scale viability through detailed catalyst modification studies. The focus will be on cobalt and nickel systems containing N-heterocyclic carbene (NHC) species as ligands. The goal of the heterogeneous catalytic conversion of CO2 to CO is to assess the potential of the oxidative propane dehydrogenation (OPD) reaction with CO2 as a soft oxidant. The main purpose here is to focus on and maximize CO2 reduction and CO formation via novel catalyst synthesis, surface engineering and investigation of catalyst support. In the field of electrocatalytic conversion of CO2 to CO we aim to (1) develop metal-based electrodes (electrocatalysts integrated in gas diffusion electrodes) exhibiting enhanced stability, (2) to investigate a novel type of metal-free electrocatalyst that can tackle the current challenges witnessed in N-doped carbons and (3) to demonstrate the continuous production of CO from CO2 by the development of a prototype lab scale reactor including the best-performing electrocatalysts developed in this project Another goal of this project is providing a proof-of-concept for plasmonic enhanced CO2 conversion into CO in an energy-lean process involving only solar light at ambient pressure as energy input i.e. without external heating. The objective of the plasma catalytic route for CO production is to enhance the conversion and energy efficiency of CO2 conversion in different plasma reactor types, with major focus on Gliding Arc plasma and Nanosecond pulsed discharges (NPD) plasma reactors. The project also takes up the challenge to activate CO2 and bio-CH4 and turn them into CO by combining chemical looping processes, into which catalysis is integrated, mediated by multifunctional materials (combine different functionalities into one smartly engineered material) and/or spatial organization of materials in dynamically operated packed-bed reactors.

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Project website

Centre for Advanced Process Technology for Urban Resource recovery (CAPTURE). 01/12/2019 - 30/11/2022

Abstract

CAPTURE is a platform where scientists, industrial partners and stakeholders meet to develop innovative solutions for efficient resource use and recovery. CAPTURE is organised along three pipelines: CO2-to-product, water "fit for use" and plastic to resource. The CO2-to-product pipeline develops CO2 capture and conversion technologies, by pooling expertise and infrastructure in catalysis, biotechnology, separation and process development from Ghent University, Universiteit Antwerpen and VITO. Via its business platform, member companies gain direct access to precompetitive research, and to leading researchers in CO2 capture and conversion. The CO2-to-product business platform emulates the successful R2T platform of the water "fit for use" pipeline.

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Solar hydrogen production from seawater using stabilized plasmonic photocatalysts. 01/11/2019 - 31/10/2023

Abstract

In 2012 international shipping emitted about 800 Mton CO2, 18.6 Mton NOx and 10.6 Mton SOx. It is expected that by 2050 these emissions will increase by 250% if no actions are taken. Therefore, scientific research for greener fuel alternatives is highly needed, and hydrogen has been identified as a promising candidate in that context. In this project, abundant seawater (rather than scarce pure water) will be split into hydrogen and oxygen gas using TiO2-based photocatalysts. The major drawback of TiO2 is the fact that it is only activated by ultraviolet (UV) light, corresponding to less than 5% of the incident solar spectrum on Earth. As a solution, the photocatalysts will be modified with ordered bimetallic gold-silver nanoparticles that strongly interact with sunlight. To ensure stability on the long term, even in the presence of a saline reaction environment, the plasmonic nanoparticles will be capped by a protective shell using wet-chemical synthesis techniques. The shell also acts as a spacer layer between the plasmonic cores that tunes the resulting interparticle distance and hot-spot formation. All structures will be thoroughly characterized down to the nanoscale, and action spectrum analysis will be performed in collaboration with Hokkaido University. Seawater splitting is only a very recently studied application. The use of plasmonic nanostructures in that regard is unprecedented, meaning the results from this project will move well beyond the state-of-the-art.

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Solar active self-cleaning and air purifying coatings using plasmon embedded titania. 01/11/2019 - 31/10/2023

Abstract

Soot is considered to be the second-largest contributor to global excess radiative forcing after CO2 and deemed responsible for 7 million premature deaths annually according to WHO. We propose an efficient photocatalyst for soot degradation (with simultaneous NOx reduction), using solar light as energy input. Photocatalytic oxidation is often achieved with TiO2 as photo-active material. The main drawback of TiO2 is its large band gap, which limits the overall solar light response to the UV region of the spectrum. Plasmonic photocatalysis using noble metal nanoparticles (NPs) has emerged as a promising technology to expand the activity window of traditional photocatalysts to the entire UV-visible light region of the solar spectrum. In this project, gold and silver NPs will be merged to overcome their individual limitations and form stable bimetallic NPs with highly tuneable plasmonic properties over a wide wavelength range. These plasmonic NPs will be embedded in TiO2 coatings. The plasmonic enhancement of photocatalytic air purifying and selfcleaning coatings will be studied in the laboratory by FTIR spectroscopy, contact angle measurements, digital imaging analysis and action spectrum analysis, as well as through real-life validation experiments in different cities, that illustrate the relevance of this research to the broader audience and potential investors. The proposed technology will be developed from TRL 2/3 to 5 including a CEA and possible recycling options.

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Adhesins: the missing link for activated sludge bioflocculation? 01/11/2019 - 31/10/2023

Abstract

Given the huge amounts of wastewater that are daily produced by households, industry and agriculture, efficient wastewater treatment technologies are required. The most cost effective way to treat wastewater is by exploiting the biodegradation capacity of bacteria that "eat" our polluting components. To keep these bacteria in the treatment system and ensure their continuous presence, they need to be separated from the purified water. Given their tiny size, this separation is impossible if the bacteria would not aggregate into socalled activated sludge flocs. The focus of this project is to unravel the mechanism behind this aggregation or "bioflocculation" process. The underlying hypothesis is that specific proteins (i.e., adhesins) on some bacteria, strongly and specifically bind to sugars or other proteins on other bacteria, thereby forming an almost unbreakable key-lock bond. To proof this hypothesis, we will first develop/refine a set of dedicated monitoring tools for adhesin detection and characterisation and floc strength quantification, and then perform dedicated and controlled experiments in the lab. As validation and to investigate how generic the detected adhesins are, we will screen for adhesins in full-scale conventional wastewater treatment systems. Finally, we will also screen novel wastewater treatment or water resource recovery systems for the presence of adhesins and study whether their presence can boost the performance of these systems in a targeted way.

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Improved CFD modelling of pollutant dispersion in urban environments for the assessment of air purification strategies. 01/10/2019 - 30/09/2023

Abstract

Air pollution is a serious problem. Flemish governmental policies have been put into action to lower pollutant concentrations. Planned measures are e.g. lowering traffic emissions and innovative building configurations to enhance natural ventilation in urban environments. Since these measures are obviously very costly and the health cost of air pollution is enormous (estimated as € 8 billion per year in Belgium), assessing the effectiveness of the planned measures will result in an efficient allocation of our society's financial resources to lower these substantial health costs. Mathematical modelling with computational fluid dynamics (CFD), allows quantifying urban pollutant concentrations and the effect of the proposed abatement strategies. However, concerns about the accuracy and computational cost of urban pollutant dispersion CFD models exist. To solve these problems, the following will be investigated: Combining different faster but less accurate Reynolds-averaged Navier Stokes (RANS) models into 1 model could increase the overall RANS performance. This strategy will be combined with the more accurate but slower large Eddy simulation (LES) models in a hybrid RANS/LES model, to speed up LES. In addition, a recently developed uncertainty quantification method will be applied to identify as yet unknown relevant sources of uncertainty. Lastly, the developed methods and knowledge will be incorporated in a model of a real quarter in a Flemish city (Antwerp).

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Research team(s)

Scientific Chair 'Veiligheidswetenschappen'. 01/10/2019 - 30/09/2022

Abstract

More than physical burdening Mensura strives towards a safe and healthy workplace for every employee. Together we will study and put a lot of efforts on work-out prevention. Dr. Gretel Schrijvers, general director of Mensura: "Employees should learn to work safely with machines, equipment and chemical products. Ergonomical work places and methodologies are also required. But is much more than physical burdening. Well-being at work also covers unacceptable behaviour, prevention of stress and re-integration of disabled employees. This chair on safety and security provides the students a multidisciplinary education and training in close relation to the work field.

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Research team(s)

Scientific Chair 'Geïntegreerde Veiligheid - Chemie en Life Sciences'. 01/10/2019 - 30/09/2022

Abstract

Safety is our top priority The industrial federation of the chemical sector, essencia, is convinced that the safety professional of tomorrow has a broad education and training in order to handle the challenges of our current society. Frank Beckx: "Safety is an absolute top priority in chemistry and life sciences. Not only in industrial processes, but also in the broader sense concerning the chemical plant, transport of people, products and commodities or crisis management in case of incidents. This specialised training with a multidisciplinary approach on safety and security offers students a lot of job opportunities in international companies as well as SME's in the chemistry and life sciences sector.

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Research team(s)

Identifying best available technologies for decentralized wastewater treatment and resource recovery for India (Saraswati 2.0). 01/08/2019 - 31/07/2023

Abstract

The aim of SARASWATI 2.0 is to identify best available and affordable technologies for decentralized wastewater treatment with scope of resource/energy recovery and reuse in urban and rural areas. Further, it addresses the challenge of real time monitoring and automation. Ten pilot technologies will demonstrate enhanced removal of organic pollution, nutrients, micro-pollutants and pathogens in India. All pilots allow for resource recovery contributing to the principles of a circular economy, and undergo a comprehensive performance assessment complemented by an sustainability assessment. UAntwerp, in collaboration with TUDelft and IITKharagpur, is involved in one of these pilots which is based on an innovative raceway reactor producing purple bacteria on the wastewater. UAntwerp will furthermore perform life cycle assessments (LCA) on the pilot technologies.

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Research team(s)

Modelling and experimental validation of deposition on vegetation to facilitate urban particulate matter mitigation. 01/01/2019 - 31/12/2022

Abstract

The adverse health effects resulting from exposure to air pollution, such as particulate matter (PM), are becoming more and more prominent. Although emissions are reducing, too high PM concentrations are still expected at locations with high traffic volumes and in so-called street canyons. Urban green has been considered as a potential urban planning solution for improving air quality, especially green walls have a great potential. Vegetation has an influence on air flow patterns and aids in the removal of particulate pollutants from the atmosphere by dry deposition on the leaf surfaces. Both field, wind tunnel and modelling studies (especially CFD) have been complementary used to investigate these effects, however, current deposition models are not able to grasp all mechanisms responsible for deposition and resuspension. This research proposal will address this shortcoming by developing a size-resolved deposition model considering all relevant mechanisms as well as resuspension on plant leaves. The relevant aerodynamic parameters and deposition/resuspension rate of different plant leaf orientations of green wall species will be determined with wind tunnel experiments. These results will serve as input of a model framework at real scale. The model framework will be applied to explore the potential of nature-based systems and eco-technological solutions for urban PM mitigation. This research proposal is very innovative and challenging since it transcends the state of the art.

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Research team(s)

In-line quantization of the hydrogen gas yield from photoelectrochemical treatment of volatile organic compounds. 01/01/2019 - 31/12/2021

Abstract

The goal of this project is to simultaneously address two persistent needs of today's society: sustainable energy production and good air quality. TiO2-based photocatalysis has proven to be successful in both light-driven hydrogen production as well as the degradation of organic pollutants. In this project the intention is to couple both applications in a single device, this way recovering part of the energy stored in the organic molecules as hydrogen gas, while mineralizing the carbon fraction to CO2. This process can be performed in a photoelectrochemical cell. Oxidation of VOCs occurs at the photo-anode, while hydrogen is produced at the cathode on the opposite side of a proton-conducting solid electrolyte membrane. Accurate and in-line detection of hydrogen gas as the desired reaction product is crucial for a thorough understanding of the cell operation. This grant is thus intended for purchasing a gas chromatograph with a state-of-the-art Barrier Ionization Discharge (BID) trace detection system for accurate analysis of hydrogen gas production at the cathode, that will complement existing infrastructure used to analyze photocatalytic VOC degradation at the photo-anode.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Ordered bimetallic plasmonic nanostructures for photocatalytic soot degradation. 01/10/2018 - 30/09/2022

Abstract

Soot is considered to be the second-largest contributor to global excess radiative forcing after CO2 and deemed responsible for tripling the amount of premature deaths by 2060. We therefore propose a fundamental study to develop an efficient photocatalyst for the degradation of soot deposits, using (solar) light as the energy input. Photocatalytic oxidation is often achieved with TiO2 as the photoactive material. The main drawback of TiO2 is its large band gap, which limits the overall solar light response to the UV region of the spectrum. As a solution, plasmonic photocatalysis using noble metal nanoparticles (NPs) has emerged as a promising technology to expand the activity window of traditional photocatalysts to the entire UV-visible light region of the solar spectrum. In this project gold and silver NPs will be merged to overcome their individual limitations and form stable bimetallic NPs with highly tunable plasmonic properties over a wide wavelength range. These bimetallic NPs will be organized as an ordered plasmonic nanostructure, that will be characterized from bulk to nanoscale, a part of which in collaboration with the Institute for Catalysis at Hokkaido University, Japan. The effect of plasmonic enhancement on the photocatalytic soot degradation mechanism will be studied on a fundamental level by in-situ FTIR spectroscopy, but also through larger scale demonstration experiments that illustrate the relevance of this research to the broader audience.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Investigation of the effect of metal ions and mediators on the delignification selectivity during pretreatment of poplar wood by Phanerochaete chrysosporium. 01/10/2018 - 30/09/2022

Abstract

Microbial pretreatment of lignocellulosic biomass is performed to delignify the substrate for further use of the carbohydrates present. Typical applications of the pretreated substrate include its conversion to chemicals by subsequent hydrolysis and fermentation, or biopulping for use in the paper industry. In contrast to the traditional technologies at high temperature and high usage of solvents, microbial pretreatment is an environmentally friendly technology. The mold Phanerochaete chrysosporium is a good candidate for lignin degradation because of its fast growth and high optimal growth temperature. For delignification purposes, the mold excretes extracellular peroxidases, i.e. manganese peroxidase and lignin peroxidase, that catalyse the oxidation and depolymerisation of lignin. However, the major disadvantage is the non-selective degradation of the lignin over the present carbohydrates. Supplements, such as metal ions and aromatic compounds, can have an activating or inhibiting action on the delignification or hydrolysis process. Moreover, recent research showed that some metal ions and aromatic compounds can act as intermediates in the oxidation of non-phenolic compounds, such as carbohydrates. Delignification of lignocellulose and hydrolysis as well as oxidation of carbohydrates will determine the efficiency of the pretreatment, dependent on the desired application. Therefore, in this research, the influence of supplements on the different possible actors in the process, i.e. substrate, microorganism and enzymes, will be investigated. Better insights in the pretreatment will help to determine which combination and concentration of supplements will improve the application potential of the pretreated wood. Additionally, a improved method for easy determination of the growth rate and delignification rate based on FTIR will be developed. Finally, a mathematical model to describe the evolution of delignification process will be proposed.

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Research team(s)

Sustainable multifunctional fertilizer - combining bio-coatings, probiotics and struvite for phosphorus and iron supply (SUSFERT). 01/05/2018 - 30/04/2023

Abstract

SUSFERT addresses the massive usage of mineral fertilisers in EU agriculture, which are largely based on nonrenewable resources, but are required in intensive crop production for meeting demands for food and feed. SUSFERT will develop multifunctional fertilisers for phosphorus (P) and iron (Fe) supply, which will fit into existing production processes and common EU agricultural practice.

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Research team(s)

Smart process control enabling robust partial nitrtation/anammox for energy-positive sewage treatment. 01/01/2018 - 31/12/2021

Abstract

Currently, sewage treatment is an energy-consuming process. However, sewage contains about ten times the required energy to treat it, and thus energy positive sewage treatment should be possible. This can be achieved by converting the conventional treatment plant to a 2-staged system; in the first stage, as much energy as possible is recovered from the sewage while in the second stage, the remaining pollutants are removed while simultaneously minimizing its energy requirement. Partial nitritation/anammox is a key technology in this energy-saving process, responsible for nitrogen removal, but there are currently several bottlenecks for its implementation in the water-line of a sewage treatment plant. This project aims to develop a smart process control that will allow this implementation and will ensure a stable and robust process. Therefore, state-of-the-art technologies will be combined with novel created technologies, such as a return sludge treatment. Additionally, the current issues about the start-up of partial nitritation/anammox will be solved by a newly developed method to seed the reactor. Finally, a conceptual retrofit is designed that will allow the easy implementation of this energy positive technology in existing treatment plants, thus lowering the threshold for companies to switch to this novel technology.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

PurpleTech – Purple bacteria cleantech for the production of nutritional protein. 01/10/2017 - 30/09/2021

Abstract

By 2050, the global demand for nutritional protein will increase by about 50%. Yet, the boundaries of environmental sustainability are already severely trespassed in the traditional fertilizer-feed-food chain and in fish-meal based aquaculture. Around the world, researchers have taken up the quest for novel, sustainable protein foods. Recovering and recycling renewable resources from waste streams is one of the key steps to mitigate the environmental impact. In single cell protein (SCP) production, both societal needs perfectly match, as microbial technology is probably the most resource-efficient manner of producing nutritional protein. In this new era of (meta)transcriptomics and (meta)proteomics, we start to see a glimpse of all the biological features that can be steered. This provides a strong incentive to revisit SCP, for the first time with a fundamental and mechanistically driven approach, exploiting not only the potential of a microbial cell to its fullest, but also the even richer genetic pool of a microbial community. Purple non-sulfur bacteria (PNSB) are nutritionally one of the most attractive types of SCP, and are furthermore metabolically the most versatile organisms on the planet. Each type of (sub)metabolism represents distinct (meta)proteomes, and hence nutritional properties such as essential amino acid profile, gastro-intestinal digestibility and nucleic acid content. Biotechnologically, the controllability of autotrophically grown PNSB communities is completely unexplored. A set of 9 tools has been distilled from a number of biological and ecological response mechanisms. In brief, it is hypothesized based on recent proteomic data that different cellular responses can drastically influence the nutritional quality. At the level of the microbial community, the objective is to synergistically make use of the full richness of the metaproteome and metatranscriptome of several PNSB and non-PNSB populations. PurpleMENU bridges environmental biotechnology to sustainable chemistry and nutrition sciences. Hereby key insights are unraveled that serve as the basis for novel bioprocesses, and perhaps for global food security and sustainability.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Past projects

Piloting a raceway reactor for the purple non-sulfur bacteria cultivation on domestic waste streams for the recovery of nutrients and water treatment as resources for food production 01/06/2020 - 30/11/2020

Abstract

In this collaboration between SEMiLLA IPStar, the Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Metropolitan Solutions (AMS) and the University of Antwerp a proof of concept will be delivered for terrestrial valorisation of Space technology. In the micro-ecological life support system alternative (MELiSSA) programme from the European Space Agency (ESA), purple bacteria play a key role in treating waste streams and producing high-quality biomass. The potential will be investigated using a raceway reactor, including usage of the products for plant production.

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Research team(s)

Electrified chemical reactor for fast release of hydrogen (H2) from liquid organic hydrogen carriers (LOHCs) for generator set (genset). H2 genset testing on a ship (Port of Future). 01/05/2020 - 30/04/2021

Abstract

The Port of Antwerp is a major industrial port worldwide, and is committed to act as a pioneer in the hydrogen economy on a European scale. The limiting factor in the hydrogen economy is an efficient storage method. State-of-the-art H2 storage systems are in the form of compressed gas (200 to 700 bar), or liquefied (20 K). To achieve such high pressures and low temperature, up to 30% of the energy in the H2 can be consumed. A better option is to rely on LOHCs (Liquid Organic Hydrogen Carriers), which can safely store up to 7 % wt. H2, and allow for easy H2 transport (potentially via the existing oil infrastructure). However, the design of a H2 release system from LOHC is far from trivial. Process intensification provides the most interesting approach to tackle the challenges related to the H2 release (large amount of gas generated). In this project, we will demonstrate an electrified centrifugal H2 release reactor. Electricity will be used as a decarbonised source of energy.

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Research team(s)

Artificial clathrates for safe storage, transport and delivery of hydrogen (ARCLATH). 01/01/2020 - 30/06/2021

Abstract

In this project a proof-of-concept will be delivered for hydrogen storage in clathrates, an estimation of the application potential and an interdisciplinary research consortium on clathrate research will be established. The feasibility of hydrogen storage in clathrate materials will be studied in technological and economical relevant conditions of temperature and pressure. The central research question is to synthesize and stabilize hydrogen clathrates by catalytic processes in order to develop a new hydrogen storage technology. The concrete aim is to achieve 5 wt% and 30 g/l storage of hydrogen by temperatures above 2C and pressures below 100 bar.

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Research team(s)

SDG Voice 2020. 01/01/2020 - 31/12/2020

Abstract

We have created a SDG youth hub with and for students within the Belgian higher education system. It is a network of students in Flanders, Walloon and Brussels that engages in spreading the SDG's within the student community in order to achieve joint action in SDG's oriented solutions. The students are coached to facilitate the transition towards more sustainability in their own institute in research, education and valorisation. The international dimension will promote the exchange of best practices in innovation and sustainability and in innovation for sustainability.

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Research team(s)

Donation (2020) for research prof. S. Vlaeminck 01/01/2020 - 31/12/2020

Abstract

Partial nitritation/anammox can contribute to energy-positive and hence more sustainable sewage treatment. The donated resources will be used to fund research and development in this area, to build and operate bioreactors.

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Research team(s)

Overcoming global food-chain stress by using microbial protein as feed ingredient on aquaculture. 01/12/2019 - 31/12/2020

Abstract

World population will reach 9 billion in 2050 leading to an increase in protein demand. Global meat consumption is expected to double during this period. Meanwhile aquatic animal production represents a steadily increasing global share of dietary protein. Aquaculture production represents 50% of this market and has already increased up to 2.5 times over the last 30 year. One third of the protein source used in aquaculture comes from fishery byproducts while the rest originates from crops (i.e. soybean). Fishmeal prices is increasing steadily while the supply is decreasing. Great part of fishmeal originates from caught fish which reduces biodiversity and submit fishers to work conditions nearly slavery. On the other hand, crops are responsible for 30% of the use of ice-free land, 70% of freshwater use and 30% greenhouse gases emissions. Thus, the inevitable intensification of the production of these conventional protein sources could lead to the acceleration of climate change and to environmental impacts. Find an alternative sustainable protein sources for food-chain and for aquaculture is therefore a major challenge for society. Microbes have a great potential to help mitigating food stress. Besides having the highest protein content of all organisms, up to 75% of the dry weight, it has several advantages comparing with traditional protein source: A) no arable land is required B) near null freshwater demand; C) nearly 100% nutrient uptake. Thus, it could replace part of the protein sources used in feed products. Comparing with other microorganisms aerobic heterotrophic bacteria (AHB) has a remarkable sustainable advantage: they can be grown in secondary resources (i.e. effluents). Consequently, water and nutrients can be recycled locally avoiding water and soil contamination. Conventional wastewater treatment plant (activated sludge process) allows the AHB growth in domestic or industrial wastewater. In the 80's scientists already pointed the potential of AHB as feed ingredient as its nutritional quality is similar to soybean and fish meal. AHB biomass from domestic and industrial wastewater were administered in feeding trial using different organisms (i.e. pigs, chicken, etc.) generating positive results. Most of these studies used AHB biomass from domestic wastewater treatment which contain faecal contamination and heavy metals which raises reasonable concerns about safety. Both contaminants can be easily avoided especially considering food industries' effluents. In Flanders, Breweries are one of the main industries in the food sector. For this reason, brewery wastewater was selected to be the substrate for AHB production. Conventional activated sludge is designed to reach the discharge limits and in reducing operational costs of the plants. Under this conditions, low biomass production is obtained. In order to have a viable technology, biomass productivity and quality need to be maximized. Our research team has been focused in the development of a technology (high-rate activated sludge) able to maximize AHB production and quality. AHB biomass has been produced in high quantities and with great biomass quality, but it is still necessary to prove that AHB produced using our technology can be used as feed ingredient to animals. For this reason, feeding trial experiment is proposed in this project to test the effect of AHB biomass on the fish (rainbow trout). This test is fundamental to prove that AHB can replace positively part of the feed ingredients applied in fish farming. The results are essential to raise awareness among stakeholders (i.e. scientific community, breweries, lawmakers, environmental and food agencies, consumers, etc.) and improve acceptability of it. The success of this research can lead to the continuation of this research which once reaching industrial scale could help mitigate food-chain and environmental stress generated by the conventional protein production.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Semi-active photocatalysis technology for abatement of urban air pollution. 01/10/2019 - 30/06/2021

Abstract

The goal of this project is to develop semi-active photocatalytic systems for mitigating air pollution in urban environments. With semi-active systems is meant photocatalytic systems with (i) improved functionality (enhanced activity under solar light conditions), (ii) in which the transfer of pollutants to the photocatalytic surfaces is increased (by inducing natural or forced convection) and (iii) where the sunlight is optimally utilized by optimizing the received light intensity. The hypothesis is that systems that meet these conditions are superior to so-called passive photocatalytic systems. In this project, a promising plasmon-enhanced photocatalytic material, developed by our research group, will be characterized in terms of its sensitivity to sunlight. The relevant reaction kinetic parameters will hereby be determined and will be used for designing semi-active air purification systems based on computational fluid dynamics (CFD) models, thus limiting the need for extensive experiments. The most promising system will then be built on scale model and will be extensively tested under controlled conditions. Finally, a demonstration model will be built in a realistic environment. The ultimate goal of the IOF-POC project is to demonstrate the feasibility of semi-active photocatalytic systems and thus to awaken the interest of potential industrial partners and other stakeholders.

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Research team(s)

Pilot project air treatment car parks Zuiderdokken 01/10/2019 - 30/09/2020

Abstract

The research group Sustainable Energy, Air and Water Technology (DuEL) of UAntwerpen will carry out research for MPA in the context of a pilot project of MPA in collaboration with QPark and MPA, whereby the Steendok and Kooldok car parks will be equipped with air purification installations with the best available air purification technology. The research group provides guidance in defining the objectives, the choice of the best available technology, the measurement, monitoring, follow-up, analysis and evaluation of the results in the short and long term.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Improved CFD modelling of pollutant dispersion in urban environments for the assessment of air purification strategies. 01/06/2019 - 30/09/2019

Abstract

Air pollution is a serious problem. Flemish governmental policies have been put into action to lower pollutant concentrations. Planned measures are e.g. lowering traffic emissions and innovative building configurations to enhance natural ventilation in urban environments. Since these measures are obviously very costly and the health cost of air pollution is enormous (estimated as € 8 billion per year in Belgium), assessing the effectiveness of the planned measures will result in an efficient allocation of our society's financial resources to lower these substantial health costs. Mathematical modelling with computational fluid dynamics (CFD), allows quantifying urban pollutant concentrations and the effect of the proposed abatement strategies. However, concerns about the accuracy and computational cost of urban pollutant dispersion CFD models exist. To solve these problems, the following will be investigated: Combining different faster but less accurate Reynolds-averaged Navier Stokes (RANS) models into 1 model could increase the overall RANS performance. This strategy will be combined with the more accurate but slower large Eddy simulation (LES) models in a hybrid RANS/LES model, to speed up LES. In addition, a recently developed uncertainty quantification method will be applied to identify as yet unknown relevant sources of uncertainty. Lastly, the developed methods and knowledge will be incorporated in a model of a real quarter in a Flemish city (Antwerp).

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Sustainable chemistry & materials. 01/01/2019 - 15/01/2020

Abstract

The multidisciplinary valorisation domain manager sustainable chemistry & materials is responsible for the coordination of the different IOF consortia active in this area. This senior profile oversees the different research competences and defines the long term strategy in cooperation with partners from industry, government and society.

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Research team(s)

Photoelectrochemical abatement of methane waste with simultaneous energy recovery. 01/10/2018 - 30/09/2020

Abstract

Methane has recently been under attention as the atmospheric methane concentration is increasing more rapidly than initially expected. As methane is the second largest contributor to the enhanced greenhouse effect, this increases the urge for sustainable methane mitigation strategies in contrast to the current handling of methane emissions (e.g. venting). In this project a sustainable methane mitigation strategy, namely photoelectrochemical (PEC) methane degradation, is presented, which has not been studied before. In a PEC cell both mineralization of methane (at the photo-anode) and hydrogen evolution (at the cathode) are combined in a single device that runs solely on (solar) light as the energy input. First, the PEC cell will be optimized by selecting the best performing photo-anode material using the knowledge attained at the Wuhan University of Technology (China), also studying less conventional materials, nanostructures and synthesis strategies. As methane-rich waste streams are often gas mixtures, the influence of different common chemical compounds will be investigated both on overall cell performance, as well as in-situ. Finally, the effect of different reaction conditions will also be studied, as these factors are known to strongly influence photodriven processes. In summary, this project will allow us to evaluate the promise of PEC-technology for energy-efficient abatement of methane waste, while providing valuable new insight into the reaction mechanisms.

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Research team(s)

Project website

Infectious diseases and environmental health 01/10/2018 - 03/06/2019

Abstract

The multidisciplinary valorisation domain manager that coordinates the consortia related to infectious diseases and environmental health is responsible for the overall strategy and cooperation between the different PI's active in this broad research area. It is a senior profile who is strongly connected to industry and policy makers.

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Research team(s)

Plasmon-enhanced photocatalytic self-cleaning coatings. 02/04/2018 - 30/09/2019

Abstract

The goal of this IOF-POC project is to develop a market viable self-cleaning coating. The self-cleaning effect relies on the concept of photocatalysis; an advanced oxidation technology that enables the degradation of organic pollutants with light as an energy input and a semiconductor (here TiO2) as the catalyst. The main challenge of the project is to significantly increase the light-efficiency of the coating, while keeping the coating as transparent and cost-effective as possible. After optimizing the coating parameters and evaluating its cost-effectiveness, the ultimate target is to develop several prototypes that demonstrate the applicability in the building sector (e.g. skyscraper windows), as solar panel cover plates, or self-cleaning fish tanks.

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Research team(s)

Clean air for children and other vulnerable groups. 01/01/2018 - 31/12/2020

Abstract

The objective of this project is the study and development of innovative air purification technology based on plasma catalysis. The mitigation of outside air pollution in order to reduce indoor air pollution for vulnerable groups is aimed for. Several subobjectives are targeted: - Cooperation in research and development between the university and industrial partners on plasma catalysis as a sustainable air pollution technology. - Demonstration and analysis of the impact of this technology in real life environment. Impact assessment and sustainability assessment of plasma catalysis. - Active involvement of demand and offer sides by market oriented cooperation. This co-creation project with public and private partners in a market oriented innovation approach should reduce the impact of air pollution on health of the most vulnerable people in society,. This intensive, interregional cooperation between knowledge centres, private enterprises and public actors results in a demand oriented innovation cluster which at its turn results in more efficient use of resources and decreased impact of air pollution on the health of vulnerable groups in the neighbouring regions Flanders-The Netherlands.

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Research team(s)

Project website

Valorisation of Lignin by development of selective enzymatic degradation, chemical catalysis and separation of innovative chemical bio-Aromatics, VALIMATICS 01/01/2018 - 30/06/2019

Abstract

De behandeling van biomassa voor doeding en niet-voeding teopassingen in de bioeconomie resulteert in grote hoeveelheden lignocellulose residuen die nauwelijks gebruikt worden. De trage lignine component is to nu nauwelijks gebruikt en biedt een groot potentieel voor de productie van fossiele brandstof gelijkaardige aromatische moleculen. Deze biogebaseerde moleculen kunnen toxische componenten (bv bisphenolA) or gevaarlijke processen (bv fosgeen) vervangen in bestaande (of nieuwe) polymeer applicaties. Daarenboven kan het leiden tot meer innovatieve en performante polymeren met nieuwe characteristieken. Daarvoor hebben de Vlaamse partners Universiteit Gent (UGent) en de Universiteit antwerpen (UA) hun inspanningen gebundeld samen met de Vietnamese partners INPC-VAST en HCM-CPEE om de lignine fractie van rijststro te valoriseren door het uit de biomassa te extraheren en te fragmenteren in fenolische en aromatische componenten, bruikbaar in fijnchemie en polymeer chemie. De sterkte van het project resulteert uit een tandem hydrolyse van selectieve enzymes en chemische catalysatoren en de integratie met membraan-gebaseerde scheidingsprocessen. De enzymatische en chemische fragementatie zal leiden tot nieuwe monomeren, oligomeren en kleine polymeren mengsels (cross linkers, anti-oxidantia, vullers, monomeer bouwstenen enz.) die gebruikt kunnen worden in verschillende applicaties (houtpanelen, textiel, banden, inkten, coatings, emulsifieerders, polymeren enz.).

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Research team(s)

Research Council Award 2017 - Award Verbeure: Applied & Exact Sciences 01/12/2017 - 31/12/2018

Abstract

Research Council Award 2017 - Award Verbeure: Applied & Exact Sciences The award will be used for funding the further development and dissemination of the research on plasmonics for improving photocatalysis. Elucidation of the fundamental operating principle, as well as the actual application of the technology, are both key aspects.

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Research team(s)

Purple bacteria: A key in the quest to beat 'early mortality syndrome'. 01/12/2017 - 31/12/2018

Abstract

One of the vital sectors in Asia important for social and economic wellbeing is shrimp production. Roughly 49% of the production is intended for local consumption as food source. This segment in the fish industry has a high economic significance as it contributes to an export value of 13 billion dollars in Asia. In 2010 this sector was shuddered by an outbreak of the early mortality syndrome (EMS) or more technically known as acute hepatopancreatic necrosis disease (AHPND). It affects shrimp postlarvae within 20-30 days causing up to 100% mortality. The social and economic effects of EMS/AHPND were (and still are) devastating: losses of USD 1 billion for whole Asian shrimp culture sector, total drop in export of 13% (between 2012-2013) and loss of Thailand's dominant position as the world's leading shrimp exporter. It has been reported that Vibrio parahaemolyticus belonging to the clade the Harveyi is the causative agent of EMS/AHPND. There is an urgent need for a sustainable strategy to prevent new EMS/AHPND outbreaks, respecting besides profit especially the people and the planet. To date, the main controlling strategy is total disinfection of pond sediment and water. It is shown that this approach actually contributes to the epidemic spread of the EMS/AHPND disease rather than controlling it. This is attributed to the action that total disinfection results in a disturbance of the ecosystem and an increase in nutrient availability, favoring fast-growing microorganisms in recolonizing the environment (such as Vibrio spp.). A sustainable alternative for total disinfection can be microbial management strategies. Shrimps are cultivated in ponds along with a microbial community in the water. This stable community is actually a gatekeeper and prevents the growth of pathogenic species. These systems are already proven to decrease Vibrio levels and animal mortality. In this project we look to purple bacteira as a way to prevent EMS. These bacteria can easily grow on side streams of aquaculture cultivation tanks and can be fed as feed ingredient.

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Research team(s)

Study on exhaust emissions of wood stoves and PM reducing technologies. 12/10/2017 - 30/11/2017

Abstract

The aim of this project is to study literature on the real life emissions of air pollutants of different wood stoves and pollutant reducing technologies. Toxic and carcinogenic pollutants as PM, CO and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), PCB's and dioxins are emitted upon burning wood. Also condensable gases as source of secondary pollutants, such as PM, are emitted. Wood burning in Flanders is claimed to be responsible for 35% of the total emission of PM, 40% of the emission of dioxins and 87% of the emission of PAH. The contribution of household activities to the total amount of air pollutants is claimed to be rising.

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Research team(s)

Consultancy on the integration of nitrification for the pilot plant of MELiSSA, the regenerative life support system van ESA. 01/10/2017 - 31/03/2021

Abstract

Long-term missions to Mars or the Moon require an autonomous production of crucial crew consumables such food, oxygen and water. Regenerative life support systems (RLSS) can refine and upgrade available streams (e.g. kitchen waste, faecal matter, urine, shower water and condensate) to such essential products. MELiSSA (micro-ecological life support system alternative) is the RLSS programme of the European space agency (ESA). Nitrification is a microbial process and plays a key role in MELiSSA, produce a stable nitrate-rich stream available for food production, with plants and microalgae. Expert consultancy to the MELiSSA pilot plant at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona should ensure a swift integration of nitrification in the complete life support loop.

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Research team(s)

PM removal by urban green: a scientific modelling framework. 01/10/2017 - 31/12/2018

Abstract

In this project a scientific framework for assessing the particulate matter (PM) removal of urban green is developed. We aim at enhancing the insight in the several phenomena that occur at the level of plant surfaces in the presence of PM polluted air, and in the way meteorological, physiological and morphological (plant) parameters affect PM transport, deposition and resuspension. The methodology is based on (1) predictive computational models for air flow, PM transport and PM deposition / resuspension on plant surfaces and (2) experimental analysis of the aerodynamics of urban green and PM deposition on their surfaces. By combining the sophisticated modularity in modeling techniques with experimental procedures, insight will be gained into the relevant underlying dynamic processes involved (PM transport, deposition and resuspension) and the effects of meteorological and physiological / morphological parameters. Based on the framework, we will explore and test the potential of 'eco-technological solutions' for the mitigation of urban air pollution, in particular of PM pollution. Conventional "passive" application of urban green does not fully use its deposition potential. In this project, innovative ways of using urban green in the smart planning of urban adaptation are suggested and studied. Additional benefits might be found in such engineered green systems for both the building and green industry and the environment, but a great deal of knowledge is still lacking to optimally develop and implement them. The knowledge build up in this research project will be very useful in the global framework of designing healthy, sustainable cities. Furthermore, the results will be very helpful to develop and tailor innovative eco-technological solutions, based on a solid scientific background, which adheres to all requirements and regulations.

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Research team(s)

Energy from methane waste: catalyst selection, parameter study and in-situ investigation of a photo-electrochemical cell. 01/10/2017 - 30/09/2018

Abstract

Methane has recently been under attention as the atmospheric methane concentration is increasing more rapidly than initially expected. As methane is the second largest contributor to the enhanced greenhouse effect, this increases the urge for sustainable methane mitigation strategies in contrast to the current handling of methane emissions (e.g. venting). In this project a sustainable methane mitigation strategy, namely photo-electrochemical (PEC) methane degradation, is presented, which has not been studied before. In a PEC cell both mineralization of methane (at the photo-anode) and hydrogen evolution (at the cathode) are combined in a single device that runs solely on (solar) light as the energy input. First, the PEC cell will be optimized by selecting the best performing photo-anode material, also studying less conventional materials, nanostructures and synthesis strategies. As methane-rich waste streams are often gas mixtures, the influence of different common chemical compounds (O2, CO2, NOx, H2O, NH3) will be investigated both on overall cell performance, as well as in-situ. Finally, the effect of different reaction conditions (temperature, flow rate and light intensity) will also be studied, as these factors are known to strongly influence photo-driven processes. In summary, this project will allow us to evaluate the promise of PEC-technology for energy-efficient abatement of methane waste, while providing valuable new insight into the reaction mechanisms.

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Nitrification consultancy for the pilot plant of MELiSSA, the regenerative life support system van ESA. 19/06/2017 - 19/11/2017

Abstract

Long-term missions to Mars or the Moon require an autonomous production of crucial crew consumables such food, oxygen and water. Regenerative life support systems (RLSS) can refine and upgrade available streams (e.g. kitchen waste, faecal matter, urine, shower water and condensate) to such essential products. MELiSSA (micro-ecological life support system alternative) is the RLSS programme of the European space agency (ESA). Nitrification is a microbial process and plays a key role in MELiSSA, produce a stable nitrate-rich stream available for food production, with plants and microalgae. Expert consultancy to the MELiSSA pilot plant at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona should ensure a swift integration of nitrification in the complete life support loop.

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Closing loops at farm and regional levels to mitigate GHG emissions and environmental contamination – focus on carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus cycling in agro‐ecosystems. 01/05/2017 - 30/04/2019

Abstract

Carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus losses from land and increasing concentrations in receiving waters or in the form of greenhouse gases (GHG) in the atmosphere are environmental issues of major concern. Agriculture contributes significantly to these emissions. An integrated approach is needed to overcome this, ranging from agricultural management to consumption patterns.

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Research team(s)

Mainstream Anammox System (MAS®). 01/05/2017 - 01/04/2019

Abstract

Currently, sewage treatment is an energy-consuming process. However, sewage contains about ten times the required energy to treat it, and thus energy positive sewage treatment should be possible. This can be achieved by converting the conventional treatment plant to a 2-staged system; in the first stage, as much energy as possible is recovered from the sewage while in the second stage, the remaining pollutants are removed while simultaneously minimizing its energy requirement. Partial nitritation/anammox is a key technology in this energy-saving process, responsible for nitrogen removal, but there are currently several bottlenecks for its implementation in the water-line of a sewage treatment plant. This project aims to develop a smart process control that will allow this implementation and will ensure a stable and robust process.

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Magnetized Plasmonic Catalysts for Photochemical Applications. 01/04/2017 - 31/03/2018

Abstract

Practical applications of liquid solar light-driven photocatalytic reactions are hampered by two main factors: (i) limited (visible) light absorption and (ii) problematic post-separation due to the nano-sized dimensions of the catalysts involved. In this BOF-KP a technological solution is developed to address both problems simultaneously. In a first stage stabilized magnetic nanoclusters will be prepared that can be separated fast and effectively. Secondly, UV-visible light responsive plasmonic nanoparticles/photocatalysts are anchored to these stabilized magnetic nanoclusters. This will reduce operation costs since freely available solar light can be utilized more effectively. Additionally, costs are avoided associated with down-stream catalyst separation. Magnetized plasmonic photocatalysts will be tested toward waste water purification (phenol degradation), whereas pure magnetized plasmonic nanoparticles will be tested as catalysts toward the direct selective photo-conversion of aniline to di-azobenzene. Using plasmonic metal nanoparticles for direct photochemical selective transformations provides an alternative 'green' synthesis process. Traditionally such reactions require elevated temperature or pressure, as well as the addition of stoichiometric quantities of specific chemicals that lead to unwanted waste streams. The method proposed in this BOF-KP only involves free sunlight as the energy source, a nano-catalyst that can be easily recovered, no additional chemicals are required and the entire reaction is carried out at room temperature.

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Biosynthesis of silica-titania photocatalysts using acidophilic diatoms. 01/04/2017 - 31/12/2017

Abstract

Photocatalysis by polycrystalline semiconductor oxides such as TiO2 is a promising technology for the degradation of air pollutants. However, there are some problems with the present generation photocatalysts such as the inadequate immobilization of photocatalyst on a carrier material and the insufficient activity of the photocatalyst. Therefore there is need for novel materials and production methods to overcome these problems. Immobilisation of titanium dioxide by metabolic incorporation in the diatom silica skeleton can provide a proper solution for the aforementioned immobilization problem. A remarkable characteristic of diatoms is their ability to bioaccumulate trace levels of soluble titanium from cell culture medium and incorporate them into their nanostructured frustules. In this way, a sustainable, biological production process for silica-titania materials can be developed. Unfortunately, the low solubility of titanium in aqueous solutions at pH 7 limits the amount of titanium that can be immobilized. The main challenge in this research is to increase the amount of titania immobilized into the porous diatom frustules in order to obtain a photocatalytically active material. In this KP-BOF project an new strategy will be used to increase the amount of titanium, i.e. using acidophilic diatoms that can grow at low pH.

Researcher(s)

  • Promotor: Van Eynde Erik

Research team(s)

Evaluation and classification of anthropogenic resources in view of circularity. 01/03/2017 - 28/02/2019

Abstract

Rapidly increasing population and growing wealth have resulted in an excessive global demand for energy and resources over the past decades, leading to growing waste generation, rising commodity prices and concerns over future supplies of raw materials. As an integral part of resource planning strategies, the efficient use of resources, including urban mining, recycling and re-use as well as the management of waste, has gained increasing importance and will continue to do so in the next years. To make the transition to a circular economy as smooth as possible, one of the key challenges is to obtain a comprehensive picture of totally available raw materials potentially recoverable from the anthropogenic stocks and flows. A new methodology for the evaluation (E) and classification (CL) of anthropogenic resources (ECLAR), i.e. for waste flows and material stocks, in analogy to existing concepts used for geogenic resource deposits has been introduced. The metholodogy has been applied e.g. for the assessment of landfill mining potential in Flanders and of urban mining potential of electronic waste. The goal of this Post-Doc project is to create a comprehensive knowledge base of various existing potentially minable anthropogenic resources, and to facilitate complete and comprehensive assessments of raw material supply under economic and non-monetary (e.g. environmental) aspects. These non-monetary effects of recycling and urban mining activities shall be included in the evaluation in a systematic and transparent way. Furthermore, the current status and gaps regarding urban mining and recycling activities shall be identified.

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Managing Soil and Groundwater Impacts from Agriculture for Sustainable Intensification (INSPIRATION). 15/02/2017 - 14/02/2021

Abstract

Leaching losses of phosphorus (P) are a potential threat to almost half of the Flemish soil. Recent measurements suggest that phosphorus, faster than expected, migrates through groundwater to surface water and thus, in relatively short time, can pose a major threat to the quality of ground- and surface water. The amount of phosphorus determines the growth of algae in surface waters (eutrophication). In the fertilizer action plan Flanders in consultation with Europe, standards are determined on manure application with respect to P-intake. In the absence of a rapid improvement in water quality with regard to phosphorus, the Commission will take drastic measures. This PhD thesis will focus on field studies to quantify P transport at field and landscape scale in P-saturated basins in Flanders. The research will focus on the execution and interpretation of flux measurements to estimate P losses from soil to groundwater and surface water. Hereby, different measurement techniques will be applied. To do this, passive sampling techniques will be used including the innovative iFLUX sampler which will then be compared with conventional sampling methods. Research objectives are 1) the validation of a methodology to determine P fluxes across interfaces between soil-groundwater-surface water, 2) the validation of the iFLUX sampler at field sites with different soil type, agricultural practice and hydrological setting; 3) the development of a methodology to calculate field-scale P mass balances to assess (i) the importance of historical sources, (ii) effect of mitigating measures and (iii) relative importance of agricultural sources compared to other emissions for management.

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BrewPro: Multi-stage microbial technology for the cost-effective production of high-quality animal feed on brewery effluents. 01/01/2017 - 31/12/2020

Abstract

By 2050, the global demand for nutritional protein will increase by about 50%. Yet, the boundaries of environmental sustainability are already severely trespassed in the traditional food-supply chain. Locally recovering resources from waste streams is one of the key steps to reduce environmental impact while creating import independency (e.g. soybean). In single cell protein (SCP) production, these societal needs perfectly match, as microbial technology is probably the most resource-efficient manner of producing nutritional protein. Wastewater from the food processing industry provides an excellent target for upgrading, such as brewery wastewater. The BrewPro project aims to develop a process that for the first time would allow to tune the protein quantity and quality of aerobic heterotrophic bacteria. This should enable cost-effective harvesting and post-processing, yielding a nutritionally attractive ingredient for animal feed preparations. The concept is based in a multiple stage anaerobic/aerobic bioreactor. As such, BrewPro wants to strengthen food sustainability and security through smart management of secondary resources.

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Scientific Chair Water-Link. 01/01/2017 - 31/12/2019

Abstract

Risk assessment of tap water: from a chemical screening of emerging organic micro-pollutants to risk communication. The safety of drinking water is very important, and requires careful detection of so-called micropollutants or emerging contaminants, including for instance pharmaceuticals, personal care products and pesticides. It is the objective to develop a practically feasible screening method to detect such compounds, assess their toxicity and, if necessary, manage the associated risks. This effort is interdisciplinary including also social science aspects with relation to risk perception and communication.

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Research team(s)

The importance of climate control during ballast tank coating of merchant ships. 01/01/2017 - 31/12/2018

Abstract

sacrificial anodes or impressed current, and/or by applying a coating. Painting steel is by far the most practical way to protect it. In order to obtain a long term coating, the paint has to be selected and applied in an appropriate manner (De Baere et al., 2014). A good application implicates amongst others appropriate climatological conditions. Neglecting the latter can influence the curing process of the paint, which leads to stress development in the coating and finally can result in cracking of the coating, delamination or blistering. Regulating bodies and cargo owners insist on a "GOOD" coating condition and thus demand attention towards climate conditions (temperature and humidity) during coating application. This involves a very high cost as it is expensive to paint blocks in a controlled manner, implicating the use of paint cells. This BOF project will investigate the importance of temperature and humidity and verify if this high cost is justified. First the importance of climate control is questioned. Next the importance of climate control is economically validated, which will be a continuation of the economic study that compares a ship with a long term ballast tank coating with an average performing coating.

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Research team(s)

Project website

Microbiologically Influenced Corrosion (MIC) in ballast tanks of merchant ships controlled through a UV ballast water management system. 01/01/2017 - 31/12/2018

Abstract

Over the past decades MIC or Microbiologically Influenced Corrosion was recognized as a separate corrosion form besides general corrosion, galvanic corrosion, crevice corrosion, pitting, intergranular corrosion, erosion corrosion and stress corrosion. Today MIC should be considered as an extra parameter, a biological element amplifying the abiotic electrochemical corrosion process. MIC refers to the influence of microorganisms on the kinetics of the corrosion processes of metals. This accelerated type of corrosion may not be associated with one specific organism but with a collection of bacteria co-existing at the same time at the same place forming a microbial consortium. The main type of bacteria generally associated with corrosion or iron or steel are sulfate reducing bacteria (SRB), Sulphur-oxidizing v-bacteria (SOB), iron-oxidizing/reducing bacteria (IOB/IRB), manganese oxidizing bacteria and bacteria secreting organic acids and extracellular polymeric substances (EPS) or slime. The classical mechanisms for microbial influenced corrosion can be reviewed as follows: 1. Metabolic production of aggressive compounds 2. Oxygen concentration cell formation 3. Acceleration of anodic or cathodic reactions by depolarization effect 4. Hydrogen embrittlement (depolarization). Ballast water discharged by ships is generally identified as a major pathway for introducing species to new environments. The effects of the introduction of new species have in many areas of the world been devastating. The upcoming IMO ballast water management convention (2004) (maybe in force this year?) will try to call a hold to this explosive situation. Today, ships exchange their ballast water in the middle of the ocean but in the future, all ships will have to install a ballast water treatment system on board to rule out these organisms effectively. One of the possible techniques is to sterilize the ballast by means of UV light. The D-2 ballast water treatment system shall have an efficacy of; • not more than 10 viable organisms per m³ ≥50 micrometers in minimum dimension, and • not more than 10 viable organisms per milliliter < 50 micrometers in minimum dimension and ≥10 micrometers in minimum dimension. Indicator microbe concentrations shall not exceed: • toxicogenic vibrio cholerae: 1 colony forming unit (cfu) per 100 milliliter or 1 cfu per gram of zooplankton samples; • Escherichia coli: 250 cfu per 100 milliliter • Intestinal Enterococci: 100 cfu per 100 milliliter Bacteria are smaller than the organisms discussed above and technically are not taken into account when evaluating the efficiency of a D-2 ballast water management system. However, we think and expect, that by means of this experiment we will be able to prove that the bacteria causing MIC are killed or rendered infertile by a ballast water management systems using UV. If this is indeed the case UV ballast water treatment systems will stop or at least retard MIC. Four groups of bacteria involved in MIC will be cultivated in a standard Postgate "B" medium and diluted with seawater before being pumped through an experimental set-up consisting out of a glass tube spiraling around a UV lamp. The exposure time will be regulated by varying the transit time. The flow-through will be passed over a steel coupon, which will then be cultivated for several weeks in artificial, non-shaken conditions. Biofilm formation will be followed up. In a second similar set-up the glass tube will be coated with a titanium dioxide film. TiO2 will act as a catalyst on the UV radiation effect. If this can be established, it should be possible to reduce the exposure times and realize and economize a lot of energy in the future ballast water management systems. The "tour de force" of this experiment is that with one system, UV radiation of ballast water, two problems may be solved, MIC of ballast tanks and the carriage of invasive species via ballast water.

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Research team(s)

Project website

Understanding Nitrous Oxide Production from The Mainstream Partial Nitritation and Anammox Process (N2OPNA). 01/11/2016 - 31/10/2018

Abstract

Energy-positive sewage treatment requires a minimum consumption of organic carbon in the biological nitrogen removal. However, there seems to be a trade-off between energy savings and sustainability, as mainstream process conditions for shortcut nitrogen removal might favor the production of nitrous oxide (N2O), potent greenhouse gas. The N2OPNA-project aims at providing insights into N2O production pathways from partial nitritation/anammox (PNA) applied under mainstream conditions, and at formulating answers to mitigate N2O emissions. The project outcome will be beneficial for the design and operation of full-scale water treatment plants that are energy positive and have a minimum global warming footprint.

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Research team(s)

Analysis of photocatalytic removal of acetaldehyde by air purifying paints and coatings 01/11/2016 - 31/12/2017

Abstract

In this project, measurements are performed by the research group DuEL, in which the photocatalytic removal of acetaldehyde is determined for air purifying paints. The measurements are performed according to the international standard ISO22197-2. The produre includes a pretreatment, an adsorption phase in dark conditions and the measurement of acetaldehyde removal under UV light.

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Research team(s)

Purple Microbes for Eco-friendly NUtrition – PurpleMENU. 01/10/2016 - 31/12/2016

Abstract

By 2050, the global demand for nutritional protein will increase by about 50%. Yet, the boundaries of environmental sustainability are already severely trespassed in the traditional fertilizer-feed-food chain and in fish-meal based aquaculture. Around the world, researchers have taken up the quest for novel, sustainable protein foods. Recovering and recycling renewable resources from waste streams is one of the key steps to mitigate the environmental impact. In single cell protein (SCP) production, both societal needs perfectly match, as microbial technology is probably the most resource-efficient manner of producing nutritional protein. In this new era of (meta)transcriptomics and (meta)proteomics, we start to see a glimpse of all the biological features that can be steered. This provides a strong incentive to revisit SCP, for the first time with a fundamental and mechanistically driven approach, exploiting not only the potential of a microbial cell to its fullest, but also the even richer genetic pool of a microbial community. Purple non-sulfur bacteria (PNSB) are nutritionally one of the most attractive types of SCP, and are furthermore metabolically the most versatile organisms on the planet. Each type of (sub)metabolism represents distinct (meta)proteomes, and hence nutritional properties such as essential amino acid profile, gastro-intestinal digestibility and nucleic acid content. Biotechnologically, the controllability of autotrophically grown PNSB communities is completely unexplored. PurpleMENU bridges environmental biotechnology to sustainable chemistry and nutrition sciences. Hereby key insights are unraveled that serve as the basis for novel bioprocesses, and perhaps for global food security and sustainability.

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Research team(s)

Outdoor air quality monitoring in Morocco and purification processes. 13/03/2016 - 31/12/2017

Abstract

This study consists of the development of an early warning and monitoring system for air pollution in Morocco based on remote sensing techniques and modelling. Additionally, we will study the possibilities of photocatalysis and plasma catalysis to abate the pollutants by using our combined modelling and remote sensing expertise. Apart from the actual research activities (described in detail below), there is also an important training part. This will be done, amongst others, by Master students of Morocco who will come to Belgium as exchange students. Students from Master in Science (4 per year) will work under their Master's degree final project on several defined tasks, and will be supervised by the investigators. Short visits for training at the University of Antwerp, Dept. Bioscience Engineering will be planned. Two workshops for faculty members, researchers and stakehold-ers will also be scheduled and research papers will be published. The supervised Master's students will serve as the foundation of building a lasting tradition of joint supervision where the advisor will be from Morocco and the co-advisor can be from the University of Antwerp. The principal investigators will exchange visits in the context of this project and supervising the degree of the students. This project will allow both teams and Master students to work on a challenging project that attract high national and international interest.

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Research team(s)

Measurements in the framework of the pre-normative research "Sustainability of photocatalytic cement-based building materials. 01/02/2016 - 31/12/2016

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand the client. UA provides the client research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

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Research team(s)

Protein production with purple bacteria for nutrient recovery in the potato processing industry 01/01/2016 - 31/12/2019

Abstract

Flanders is a hotspot of nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus). This is the result of intensive food production, and nutrient losses along this fertilizer to food conversion chain. To recover lost nutrients, conversion into microbial protein (single cell protein) is a sustainably appealing scenario. Purple bacteria represent an interesting, yet underexplored source for microbial protein production and consumption. The potential of purple bacteria is derived from their metabolism as photoheterotrophs. Firstly, they have a near perfect organic carbon immobilization efficiency in comparison with other heterotrophs, decreasing greatly the carbon input needs. Secondly, purple bacteria also have a high growth rate with respect to other phototrophs, leading to a desirable low land usage footprint. Thirdly, their unique potential to grow on infra-red wavelengths allows a selectivity tool during cultivation. The research objective of this project is to acquire insights into the biotechnological production of purple bacteria in open communities on fermented wastewater from the potato processing industry. It is targeted to demonstrate that biomass enriched in purple bacteria can serve as an excellent feed ingredient for aquaculture.

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Research team(s)

BIOCAPPS: Biogenic catalyst applications. 01/01/2016 - 31/12/2017

Abstract

Porous silica structures of diatoms can be considered as high-grade, easy-to-extract products around which companies and research institutes can develop products. The general purpose of this project is to demonstrate that: (i)Sustainable production of silica with algae (diatoms) on an industrial scale is feasible; (ii) Modification of biogenic silica with titanium via biological or chemical routes can lead to an increase of the valorization potential of these materials; (iii) The development of diverse, (nano)technology applications based on algal silica.

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Research team(s)

Photocatalytic gas scrubber as innovative air purification technology. 01/01/2016 - 31/12/2016

Abstract

Air pollution is one of the problems that has attracted specific attention since the start of the 21st century. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs), originating from furniture or building materials amongst others, are an important class of pollutants and the concentration indoors are often several times higher than outdoors. The main goal is the complete mineralization of VOCs based on a photocatalytic oxidation process which can be carried out under mild reaction conditions (low pressure and temperature). The methodology that will be used is to transfer the VOCs from the gas phase to the aqueous phase by means of a scrubber to ensure an efficient photocatalytic degradation under UV light. The light efficiency will be optimized based on two different methods. The first method is via modification of standard TiO2 with plasmonic silver nanostructures. These nanostructures display surface plasmon resonance (SPR) in the UV part of the spectrum, which entails a significant electric near-field enhancement. The build-up of these intense local electric fields allows an efficient concentration of the incident photon energy in small volumes near the nanostructures. Since the rate of electron-hole pair formation is proportional to the intensity of the electric field, a drastic increase in charge carrier formation occurs. In order for this plasmonic "lens effect" to work, an energy match between the bandgap energy of the semiconductor and the energy associated with the SPR is required, which is the case for silver nanostructures. A second method to increase the UV light efficiency is by means of an innovative reactor design. A scrubber will be used to transfer the contaminated air flow to the aqueous phase leading to an enrichment of the VOCs in the aqueous phase. After that, the VOCs will be photocatalytically degraded in the aqueous phase, which is a better known concept than degradation in gas phase. The VOC degradation will occur via an optimized reactor design in which a UV transparent capillary tube is coated on the inside with photoactive material. This tube will be winded around a UV light source. In this way, there is a large contact time between pollutant and catalyst. Furthermore, this design ensures an active washing of the catalyst surface avoiding possible deactivation of the catalyst.

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Research team(s)

MicroNOD : Microbial Nutrients On Demand. 01/10/2015 - 30/09/2017

Abstract

The MicroNOD project aims to overcome key technological and non-technological barriers to establish an innovative sustainable value chain that upgrades inorganic nutrients from safe industrial side streams to a high-quality organic fertilizer for professional growers as well as for the retail sector. Nutrients will be immobilized microbially through aerobic and phototrophic mechanisms, with a strong focus on a technological leap in knowledge that leads to cost efficiency, minimum input of fresh water, fossil-based energy and non-recovered materials. The processing of the microbiota to organic fertilizer in low-impact crop substrates is directed to maximally align the nutrient release from the fertilizers with the plants needs. MicroNOD targets systemic innovation through strong interaction with all stakeholders throughout society. It is intended to stimulate demand and public acceptance of the recovered bioproduct, create economic value for all business activities along this innovative value chain, set up a quality assurance system, meet product legislation and finally quantify sustainability.

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Research team(s)

Green Building - Green walls for sustainable buildings and cities 01/09/2015 - 31/08/2019

Abstract

in this project the direct effects of green walls on local air quality and hydrothermal effects of green walls are studied. The global aim is to gain better insight in the interactions plant - (urban) environment, and finaly to optimize existing systems towards air purifying effects.

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Design and optimization of a photocatalytic reactor for sustainable air purification in ventilation systems 01/07/2015 - 30/06/2019

Abstract

The general objective of this project is the design and development of a photocatalytic reactor for HVAC systems for the removal of VOC's. Hereby a significant improvement of the energy consumption as compared to conventional systems is aimed at.

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Research team(s)

Fabrication and characterization of plasmonic TiO2 anodes for energy recovery from contaminated air. 01/02/2015 - 31/12/2015

Abstract

In this BOF KP TiO2-based photo-anodes are modified with plasmonic noble metal nanoparticles that shift the window of operation towards the visible light region of the solar spectrum. The main objectives are the detailed photo-electrochemical characterization of these plasmonic TiO2 photo-anodes and the fundamental elucidation of the plasmon-mediated working mechanism.

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Research team(s)

Development of a continuous soot flow inside a laboratory setup. 01/02/2015 - 31/12/2015

Abstract

Soot is one of the main culprits for health related problems. In our laboratory we are studying the degradation of soot. In order to do this, it is necessary to have a gas flow containing this soot. In this project, the construction of such a system, capable of generating a continuous and reproducible flow of soot that can be implemented inside the existing gas lab, is investigated.

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Thermophilic consortia for nitrogen removal: transposition from natural resources to biotechnology. 01/02/2015 - 30/09/2015

Abstract

This is a fundamental research project financed by the Research Foundation – Flanders (FWO). The project was subsidized after selection by the FWO-expert panel. This study focusses on the removal of harmful ammonium from polluted water by converting it to harmless nitrogen gas, which is released to the atmosphere. Opposed to the established mesophilic temperature conditions, biotechnology at thermophilic temperatures is hypothesized to have several advantages: higher stability, faster reactions, lower sludge production and better hygienization.

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In search of sustainable building blocks: the analytical path to a bio-aromatic society. 01/01/2015 - 31/12/2018

Abstract

The focus of this research project is the detailed characterisation of lignin hydrolysis and depolymerised mixtures. Using various chromatographic techniques, the volatile and soluble fractions of these mixtures will be characterised. The (insoluble) residue, will be further investigated using novel pyrolysis techniques coupled to two dimensional gas chromatography with mass spectrometric detection. The expectations are that by using novel techniques in combination with powerful separation techniques, these complex mixtures can be characterised to a large extend.

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Research team(s)

Analysis of the weldability of an experimental corrosion resistant steel quality for the use in ballast tanks of merchant vessels 01/01/2015 - 31/12/2016

Abstract

Corrosion in ballast tanks is a huge problem. Traditionally, coatings and sacrificial anodes are used to prevent corrosion. The use of corrosion resistant steel (CRS) might offer an acceptable alternative, if the construction with this steel type is possible using the currently accepted techniques and methods at ship construction yards. This project will determine whether the weldability of CRS is similar and equivalent to that of ordinary Grade A ship construction steel.

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Research team(s)

Sunlight-driven photo-electrochemical hydrogen production from air contaminated with volatile organic compounds. 01/10/2014 - 30/09/2017

Abstract

Today's society has to cope with two persistent demands: sustainable energy production and a clean, healthy environment. This project aims at addressing both issues simultaneously in a single device. Air contaminated with volatile organic compounds (VOC) is administered to the photoanode compartment of a photo-electrochemical (PEC) cell. The photo-anode consists of a photocatalyst (TiO2) that mineralizes those VOCs under illumination. Protons formed during photoreaction diffuse through a solid electrolyte membrane towards the cathode side of the PEC cell. At the cathode protons are reduced with photogenerated electrons that are externally conducted from anode to cathode and hydrogen fuel is recovered. A big challenge of the proposed concept is to make the photo-anode visible light active. Photocatalysts such as TiO2 are activated only by UV light, which represents but 5% of the solar spectrum. In this project the photo-anode will be modified with unconventional and ffordable 'plasmonic' metal nanostructures with photoresponse tuned to the solar spectrum. They are expected to boost the PEC cell's efficiency by expanding the activity window of the photo-anode towards visible light or by improving the performance in the available wavelength range. Physico-chemical characterization, theoretical simulations of the light-matter interaction and actual PEC cell performance tests will lead to fundamental understanding and efficiency improvement of this sunlight-driven process.

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Research team(s)

The recovery of valuable metals from mineral waste streams through innovative hydrometallurgical processes. 01/09/2014 - 04/09/2016

Abstract

Chromium (Cr) containing slag from metallurgical industries such as steel, alloy and nonferrous alloy production is classified as a hazardous waste. Its disposal is a major environmental concern. According to the Flemish environmental legislation, Cr could not exceed limit values, 1250 mg/Kg for reuse of the materials as or in a construction material. Also, Cr could become a critical resource in Europe and secondary resources can be interesting. The objective of the study is to develop further knowledge with regard to the recovery of chromium from metallurgical slags using innovative hydrometallurgical processes.

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Research team(s)

Plasmon activated photocatalysts for soot degradation. 01/01/2014 - 31/12/2017

Abstract

Current soot concentrations in the atmosphere keep posing a considerable threat to human health and environment. Therefore, new strategies are necessary to alleviate the damaging impact of soot emissions. In this regard, photocatalysis is a very promising technology. Although photocatalytic soot degradation has already been demonstrated under UV-light, it would be much more interesting to have photocatalytic activity under visible light. The goal of this research is therefore to prepare a visible light active titanium dioxide (TiO2) photocatalyst to be used towards soot degradation. In order to achieve this goal the TiO2 photocatalyst is modified with plasmonic noble metal alloy nanoparticles.

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Research team(s)

Fundamental study of plasmonic-enhanced photocatalysis through model systems of noble metals and TiO2 fabricated using atomic layer deposition. 01/01/2014 - 31/12/2017

Abstract

The objective of this project is to synthesize model photoactive materials with increasing sophistication and to perform advanced characterization, numerical modelling and photocatalytic activity mapping in order to uncover the mechanism of SPR-enhanced photocatalysis. To this aim intricate semiconductor/metal composite structures with stepwise increasing sophistication and dimensionality will be synthesized using ALD of TiO2 and noble metals onto flat surfaces and 3D mesoporous matrices.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Feasibility study of energy and carbon fluxes in horticulture and industrial zones of the province of Antwerp. 01/01/2014 - 30/09/2014

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand POM. UA provides POM research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Application of Sewage Plus Technology for wastewater treatment in Vietnam. 01/12/2013 - 30/11/2015

Abstract

The specific objective of this VLIR-UOS research project is to apply SewagePlus technology, i.e. the treatment of enriched sewage with energy efficient technologies, for wastewater treatment in Vietnam.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Plasma assisted catalysis as a sustainable indoor air purification technology. 01/10/2012 - 30/09/2016

Abstract

The quality of outdoor air is a much discussed topic in media and politics, while indoor air quality (IAQ) is often overlooked. Despite the fact that people spend the largest fraction of their time (85%) indoors, poor IAQ is still an underestimated problem. In fact, indoor air is often of worse quality than outdoor air. So it is definitely time to focus on indoor air quality as well. This research deals with air purification with specific focus on the development of a sustainable indoor air purification technology. Air purification technology on the market is commonly based on electrostatic precipitation (ESP) with corona discharge as plasma source. This technique has, however, some disadvantages. For example, formation of by-products (e.g. ozone) that are powerful oxidants; displacement instead of degradation of the pollutants to another phase and occurrence of irreversible deposition on the collector electrode. The latter results in a decline of the efficiency of the ESP. Implementing a photocatalytic nano-coating offers an innovative and sustainable solution to eliminate these drawbacks. This solution includes several different opportunities: For one, the nano-coating ensures the conversion of harmful intermediates and end-products to harmless products. Secondly, due to the photocatalytic activity complete mineralisation of the pollutants can be achieved. Furthermore, the occurrence of irreversible deposition and, consequently the additional wash step, is avoided. The aim of this project is thus to develop an integrated air purification technology, using electrostatic precipitation and photocatalytic degradation of trapped particles, also called plasma assisted catalysis. The research itself is divided into three work packages. First, it is needed to study the decomposition processes in plasma of individual pollutants like formaldehyde and particulate matter (PM). These experiments will be conducted in an electrostatic precipitator on lab scale. After studying the individual pollutants, the abatement of a realistic indoor air composition, for example environmental tobacco smoke (ETS), will be investigated as well. During the second phase, a selected photocatalytic nano-coating will be optimised. This optimisation is done in function of the maximum photocatalytic activity in the gas phase. It is, however, very important that other properties, necessary for the implementation in a plasma assisted catalysis set-up, are also investigated. These features include excellent adhesion on the substrate, good conductivity, optimal amount of deposited material, large specific surface area, open porosity and the required crystal structure. This work package results in a sustainable coating that has all the specific requirements needed to work in a plasma reactor. The third phase of this project includes the same experiments as performed in the first phase but this time with a coating applied on the collector electrode. Comparing the decomposition processes with and without coating enables to determine the influence of the coating on the working of the ESP. Hence, the synergetic effect of the plasma assisted catalytic system will be investigated. The coating can be further improved after obtaining the results of this phase. Obviously, the three different work packages are in close collaboration with each other.

Researcher(s)

  • Promotor: Lenaerts Silvia
  • Co-promotor: Hauchecorne Birger
  • Fellow: Van Wesenbeeck Karen

Research team(s)

Noble metal nanoparticle antenna based plasmonics to improve photocatalysis. 01/10/2012 - 30/09/2014

Abstract

Millions of people are currently suffering from the consequences of poor indoor air quality. Photocatalysis is a promising approach to remove harmful components from the air. The bottleneck thus far is the low efficiency of the photocatalytic reactions. A big step forward can be achieved by light harvesting antenna systems based on metal nanoparticles. They capture light of lower energy (in the visible light region) and with a higher efficiency. Photocatalytic ceramic foams with nanoparticle antennas are synthesized, characterized and tested towards their air purification properties.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Bio-template silica titania diatoms for gas phase photocatalysis. 01/07/2012 - 30/06/2016

Abstract

Air pollution is of growing social and economical concern in densely populated regions as Flanders. A promising air purification technology is photocatalysis that only uses light to convert harmfull pollutants to harmless components as CO2 and H20. Photocatalysts, frequently based on titanium dioxide, exhibit several drawbacks: (1) environmentally burdening production process, (2) insufficient immobilisation of the nanoparticles, (3) insufficient activity. Immobilisation of titanium dioxide by metabolic incorporation in the diatom silica skeleton can provide a proper solution for the aforementioned problems. In this process titanium dioxide is incorporated in the silica skeleton of the diatom during cell division. Diatoms are single-celled eukaryotic microalgae that form intricate, self-assembled porous silica cell walls, called frustules. These diatom frustules are composed of hydrated silica with specific 3D morphologies, micro- meso or macroporosity and have typically high surface area (10-250 m2/g). In this project two subspecies of diatoms are used, the salt water algae Pinnularia sp.and the acidophilic algae Eunotia sp. This study provides sustainable, well immobilised and highly porous biosilica titania materials that are promising for photocatalytic air purifcation. The expertise on the growing of algae and the incorporation of metal atoms is present in the research group Ecophysiology, Biochemistry and Toxicology (EBT) of the department of Biology. The titanium content of the frustules should be as high as possible in order to obtain photocatalytically active materials. Two new strategies to increase the amount of titanium available for metabolic incorporation are appied. On one hand we will use acidophilic diatoms that can grow at very low pH, on the other hand titanium complexes are studied. The resulting mesoporous biosilica titania complexed are analysed for their titanium dioxide content (ICP-MS) and the location of the titanium dioxide deposition (STEM-EDS). After thermal annealing at high temperatures (400-900°C) the crystallinity (XRD), surface area (BET isotherms), pore distribution (BJH method) and optical properties (UV-VIS spectroscopy) are studied for those materials with sufficient titanium dioxide content. The biotemplate structures are tested for their photocatalytic degradation perfomance towards several common air pollutants (NOx, ethylene, acetaldehyde) in the gas phase. Expertise on real time in-situ study of photocatalysts in operating conditions is present in the research group Sustainable Energy and Air Purification (DuEL) of the department of Bio-science Engineering. This research project results in an optimized bio-template production process for mesoporous silica-titania photocatalysts as a base for an efficient, sustainable, economically and ecologically viable air purification process.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Development and application of future studies methodologies for industrial activities. 01/03/2012 - 29/02/2016

Abstract

The objective of this research project is: - to develop methodologies for future studies in order to achieve a sustainable industrial production. - to apply the developed methodologies to specific industrial production processes.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Research of the corrosion resistance of experimental steel alloys in a seawater environment for the construction of ballast tanks on board of merchant navy vessels 01/01/2012 - 31/12/2013

Abstract

The degree of corrosion in ballast tanks on board of merchant navy vessels is very variable and influenced by the chemical composition and crystal structure of the alloy used. This project will determine in an experimental way the differences between the steel alloys used on board and some experimental steel compositions. The conclusions will be used for the development of a new steel alloy that is more resistant to the aggressive seawater environment in ballast tanks. The project is build on fysico-chemical measurements and automated image evaluation of the microscopic structures.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Optimization of photocatalytic materials for the removal of NOx and VOC. 01/01/2012 - 31/12/2013

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand the Flemish Public Service. UA provides the Flemish Public Service research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

GREEN-TECH - From grey to green. How to improve the sustainability of wastewater and drinking water treatment. 01/01/2012 - 31/12/2013

Abstract

The overall objective of the proposed project is to establish and co-ordinate a network of European and Indian experts from academia, industry and local water authorities with the aim of paving the way for deployment of green technologies in the water sector and in parallel for setting up the directions for innovation and creation of a beneficial economic impact. Green-Tech aims to identify most promising sustainable technologies and promote their implementation in water management practices.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Sustainable indoor air-purifying technology based on plasma assisted catalysis. 01/01/2012 - 31/12/2012

Abstract

The indoor air quality has decreased greatly in the last couple of decades due to the increasing concentration of volatile organic compounds in indoor air. This increase is a result of the improved air tightness of buildings and the growing use of numerous synthetic chemicals. It is therefore necessary to remove these harmful compounds so that the general quality of indoor air can be improved. One possible way of doing so, is by means of plasma assisted catalysis. This is a very promising technique that combines the advantages of high product selectivity of catalysis with the fast start-up from plasma technology. It is therefore perfectly suitable as sustainable indoor air-purifying technology. In this project, more insight will be gained regarding the processes that occur in such a combined system. For this, a photocatalytic nano-coating will be applied on the collector electrode of a wire-to-plate corona discharge reactor. The removal of acetaldehyde from indoor air, as performed by both the combined system and the corona reactor on its own, will be looked into so that the combined effect of plasma and catalysis can be studied. The degradation of acetaldehyde will be monitored by performing both gaseous phase and surface related studies, so that every potential by-product can be detected. It is essential that there is a complete removal of the pollutant, i.e. no adsorbed intermediates can remain on the catalytic surface as this would decrease the removal efficiency. Furthermore, the effects of polarity (both positive and negative), voltage (between 10000 and 25000 V) and relative humidity (between 10 and 90%) will be studied, so that a set of optimal working conditions can be determined. This project is the start-up of a new pillar of the research group of sustainable energy and air purification (DuEL), hence it fits perfectly in the call of 'Klein Project'.

Researcher(s)

  • Promotor: Hauchecorne Birger

Research team(s)

Research and development of Au/TiO2 foams for removal of NOx and VOCs from ambient air. 01/01/2011 - 31/12/2012

Abstract

The aim of this project is the removal of NOx and VOC in ambient air by an integrated air purification system with based on photocatalysis. During the project the main objective will be the development of a ceramic photocatalytic foam. Furthermore there will be Au deposition to enhance the photocatalytic activity. The whole project is taken as a process approach involving scientific/technological and socio/economical aspects.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Efficient and sustainable air purification technology: implementation of a (photo)catalytic nano coating in an electrostatic precipitator. 01/01/2011 - 31/12/2011

Abstract

When using electrostatic precipitation for air purification, ozone formation and irreversible deposition on the electrode result in the decline of the removal efficiency. A (photo)catalytic nano coating provides a substantial efficiency and sustainability improvement by the conversion of harmful pollutants and byproducts into harmless substances and by the avoidance of additional washing or pollutant removal steps.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Noble metal nanoparticle antenna based plasmonics to improve photocatalysis. 01/10/2010 - 30/09/2012

Abstract

Millions of people are currently suffering from the consequences of poor indoor air quality. Photocatalysis is a promising approach to remove harmful components from the air. The bottleneck thus far is the low efficiency of the photocatalytic reactions. A big step forward can be achieved by light harvesting antenna systems based on metal nanoparticles. They capture light of lower energy (in the visible light region) and with a higher efficiency. Photocatalytic ceramic foams with nanoparticle antennas are synthesized, characterized and tested towards their air purification properties.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

CFD modeling of local air quality and ultra fine dust. 01/10/2010 - 31/12/2011

Abstract

The overall objective of the project is to set up, evaluate and demonstrate an advanced and comprehensive air quality modelling system and associated web-based service, containing novel elements specifically designed for air pollution policy support in hot spot regions.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Biofouling in submerged membrane bioreactors. 01/10/2010 - 14/09/2011

Abstract

In this research project the complex causes and mechanisms of fouling in membrane bioreactors will be investigated. For this purpose a new fouling measurement method will be developed which allows to distinguish between reversible (can be removed by mechanical cleaning) and irreversible fouling (can only be removed by chemical cleaning). The system will be used to detect relationships between operational parameters and (ir)reversible fouling. Furthermore, it will be applied as an online sensor in an advanced control system, enabling the continuous adjustment of membrane cleaning facilities to the measured reversible and irreversible fouling propensity.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Hydrolysis of biopolymers by enzymes immobilized on membranes and its integration into a membrane reactor. 01/02/2010 - 01/01/2014

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand VITO. UA provides VITO research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

The active site: from catalysis to reactor. 01/01/2010 - 31/12/2019

Abstract

The project involves a collaboration between chemists and chemical engineers in the field of heterogeneous catalysis. The aim is to characterize and to fully understand the active site of the catalyst on the atomic level, in order to build catalysts with improved properties in a reactor in the chemical industry.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Follow-up study of chemical, microbial and metallurgic factors affecting the corrosion in ballast tanks on board of merchant navy vessels 01/01/2010 - 31/12/2011

Abstract

Corrosion in ballast tanks is a very specific issue, influenced by numerous circumstances. As a consequence, many types of corrosion exist, each having its own influences and mechanisms. The project is divided in 3 work packages. First, on board sampling will be done. Chemical parameters and metallurgic characteristics of the ships will be identified. Based thereupon, a set of hypotheses regarding the cause of corrosion will be constructed, with the help of multivariate statistics. These will then be tested in an experimental setup.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Fundamental study of an integrated NOx and particulate matter photocatalytic removal process. 01/01/2010 - 31/12/2010

Abstract

Emissions of diesel engines contain harmful pollutants like particulate matter (PM) and nitrogen oxides (NOx). In the research group for Sustainable Energy and Air Purification (University of Antwerp), ceramic photocatalytic foams are studied which can trap PM and allow simultaneously the catalytic removal of PM and NOx. The required energy for the catalytic process is accomplished by illumination. The main objective of this PhD is to study the reaction mechanisms occurring on photocatalytic titanium dioxide materials during the integrated removal of NOx and PM. A deeper insight in the ongoing reactions is important to achieve a real breakthrough in photocatalytic removal processes. The fundamental knowledge will help to improve materials and optimise reaction conditions.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

In-situ reduction of hazardous pollutants in groundwater/aquifer with injectable Fe-based particles. 01/10/2009 - 30/09/2013

Abstract

The research focuses on the developlnent of groundwater rehabilitation technologies with injectable Fe-based micro- (100 nm < d < 100 pm) and nanoscale particles (< 100 nm). The general idea of the methods to be developed is to inject small sized particles into the subsurface where they either directly react with the present contaminants (DNAPLs) or build a permeable reactive zone where the dissolved contaminants are being degraded.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Upgrading and purification of gaseous waste flows by coupling of an advanced catalytic system and an algal bioreactor. 01/09/2009 - 31/08/2013

Abstract

The removal of gaseous CO2-, waste-, side-, or rest flows can be addressed with algal bioreactors aiming at CO2 sequestration on the one hand and biomass and oil production on the other. However, the impurities and their impact on the algae are an important bottleneck. This project aims at combining an advanced (photo-) catalytic system with an algal bioreactor in order to contribute to an orchestrated approach. The advanced (photo-) catalytic system is used for the characterisation and the catalytic destruction of the gas flow in the process by the production of water and carbon dioxide. The cleaned and optimised carbon dioxide flow is fed to the algal bioreactor. It is foreseen that this combination results in improved overall yield and quality of the end-products.

Researcher(s)

  • Promotor: Lenaerts Silvia
  • Co-principal investigator: Heerwegh Kristel
  • Co-promotor: Horvath Joeri
  • Fellow: Vinken Katrien

Research team(s)

Integration of an economic costing model in a spatially explicit water quality model. 01/09/2009 - 30/04/2012

Abstract

The project aims at integrating the effect of (ground)water rehabilitation technologies in a collaborative management tool for assessing water quality at the river basin scale. Furthermore, economic models will be used to choose the optimal rehabilitation strategy in view of the requirements imposed by the WFD. In this project, a new model platform will be developed that integrates an economic optimization model in a spatially explicit water quality model. The model will allow to design and plan rehabilitation measures for water quality explicitly in space and time.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Research and development of Au/TiO2 foams for removal of NOx and VOCs from ambient air. 01/01/2009 - 31/12/2010

Abstract

The aim of this project is the removal of NOx and VOC in ambient air by an integrated air purification system with based on photocatalysis. During the project the main objective will be the development of a ceramic photocatalytic foam. Furthermore there will be Au deposition to enhance the photocatalytic activity. The whole project is taken as a process approach involving scientific/technological and socio/economical aspects.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Biofouling in submerged membrane bioreactors. 01/10/2008 - 30/09/2010

Abstract

In this research project the complex causes and mechanisms of fouling in membrane bioreactors will be investigated. For this purpose a new fouling measurement method will be developed which allows to distinguish between reversible (can be removed by mechanical cleaning) and irreversible fouling (can only be removed by chemical cleaning). The system will be used to detect relationships between operational parameters and (ir)reversible fouling. Furthermore, it will be applied as an online sensor in an advanced control system, enabling the continuous adjustment of membrane cleaning facilities to the measured reversible and irreversible fouling propensity.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Determination and calculation of ground water polluent fluxes in the frame of risk evaluation. 01/01/2008 - 14/05/2012

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand VITO. UA provides VITO research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Study of chemical and microbial factors affecting the corrosion in ballast tanks on board of merchant navy vessels. 01/01/2008 - 31/12/2009

Abstract

Corrosion in ballast tanks is a very specific issue, influenced by numerous circumstances. As a consequence, many types of corrosion exist, each having its own influences and mechanisms. The project is divided in 3 work packages. Te first package intends to formulate a protocol for survey, a data form and a do it yourself kit for sampling. During the second package, on board sampling will be done. Chemical parameters and microbiological consortia will be identified. The third package tends to formulate a hypothesis regarding the cause of corrosion with the help of multivariate statistics.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Sustainability evaluation of options for energetic valorisation of bio-mass in Flanders. 01/11/2007 - 31/10/2011

Abstract

This PhD research aims at the development of an operationel sustainability assessment tool for policymakers and stakeholders involved in bio-energy production and consumption. It intends to gain insight into the ecological and socio-economic sustainability of the most relevant combinations of local or imported biomass and conversion technologies in Flanders. Therefore it is necessary to make an inventory and evaluation of the most relevant options of energetic valorisation of biomass in Flanders in the short and medium term. The major part of the research will be devoted to the elaboration of an integrated sustainability model that is specific for Flanders. An extensive review and evaluation will be made of existing assessment tools, primarely LCA-based ones, the internationally available LCA-data and the 1st and 2nd generation biomass technologies for energy conversion and generation. An economic optimalisation model will be chosen, based on some specific biomass and energy requirements, and combined with the environmental and social sustainability aspects into an integrated sustainability model for biomass energy. This model will make it possible to weigh the pros and cons of the different biomass conversion routes with respect to sustainability, energy efficiency and costs. The final questions to be answered in this research are thus: -which biomass-conversion technology combinations are for Flanders the optimal ones with respect to sustainability, energy and cost efficiency? -how can Flanders use its (limited) inland biomass sources in an optimal ecological and economic way?

Researcher(s)

  • Promotor: Kretzschmar Jean
  • Fellow: Buytaert Veerle

Research team(s)

Emission, formation and dispersion of ultra fine particles. 01/10/2007 - 30/09/2011

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand VITO. UA provides VITO research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Computational Fluid Dynamics for modelling the dispersion of nanoparticles. 01/10/2007 - 31/08/2011

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand a private institution. UA provides the private institution research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Ceramic hollow fibres for gas fission in sustainable energy production. 01/10/2007 - 31/08/2011

Abstract

This doctoral research aims at the development of a functional, gastight ceramic membrane, with a hollow fiber geometry and optimal proton or oxygen ion conduction, applicable in the precombustion and/or oxyfuel route for future thermal power plants. In the oxyfuel route pure oxygen ( obtained from ambient air via membrane separation) is used as oxidans for the fuel, while in the precombustion route the fuel is gasified and H2 is separated from the H2/CO2 mixture. The development of the appropriate membranes will be based on former VITO research wherein the technical feasability of manufacturing high quality ceramic fibers was demonstrated. The first step will be the production and characterisation of hollow fibers made of perovskite or perovskite like ceramic material, while in the second, and crucial step a suitable small-scale membrane module will be designed to bundle the hollow fibers, make them gastight and thus simplifying the scaling-up.

Researcher(s)

  • Promotor: Kretzschmar Jean
  • Fellow: Buysse Cédric

Research team(s)

Emission, formation and dispersion of ultra fine particles. 01/07/2007 - 30/06/2009

Comprehensive two-dimensional gas chromatography (GCxGC) as tool for assessing oil-polluted soils: toxicity, degradability, mobility and remediation potential. 01/12/2006 - 30/11/2009

Abstract

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)