Siegfried Vlaeminck

Microbial cleantech for the water cycle and food production chain

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About Siegfried Vlaeminck

Prof. dr. ir. Siegfried E. Vlaeminck

(updated 2018/07/10)

Scientific profile 

  • Research highlights:
    • Expertise: Microbial cleantech for the water cycle and food production chain
    • Co-authored 71 articles in ISI indexed journals (international, peer reviewed, A1); h-index (Hirsch): 23; 1513 times cited (excluding self-citations)
    • (Co-)Promotor of 5 finished and 19 ongoing PhD students
    • Contributions to conference presentations: >150 oral and >40 poster
    • Coordinator of the FP7 project ManureEcoMine, (Co-)PI for several projects from the European Space Agency (ESA), and scientific coordinator of the MIP i-Cleantech Flanders project MicroNOD
  • Teaching highlights:
    • >10 years of teaching experience in environmental biotechnology, wastewater treatment and cleantech
    • Signature courses: Environmental technology; Wastewater treatment technology; Cleantech for food, water and energy; Microbial re-use technology; Biotechnological processes in environmental sanitation; Microbial ecology & environmental sanitation
    • Promotor of >30 MSc thesis students, and many BSc thesis students and external internships
  • Servicing highlights:
    • Associate editor for Microbial Biotechnology (John Wiley & Sons), Web of Science IF 3.9 (2017), top 20% journal for 'Biotechnology & Applied Microbiology', and top 26% for 'Microbiology'
    • Consultant for the environmental engineering industry: for 14 companies (among which 7 international), 5 public bodies/agencies and 2 court cases
    • Member of the management committee of the International Water Association Specialist Group Nutrient Removal and Recovery (IWA SG NRR)


Research context and mission

Mission: We develop microbial technology that is clean and safe, for a sustainable water cycle and food production chain

Microbial technology

  • Nitrogen removal: mainstream and sidestream partial nitritation/anammox, nitritation/denitritation, S-based denitrification, thermophilic nitrification/denitrification
  • Organic and inorganic carbon capture: high-rate activated sludge and phototrophs
  • Energy-positive sewage treatment
  • Nitrate fertilizer production: nitrification
  • Production of dietary microbial protein and slow-release fertilizer: microalgae, purple bacteria, heterotrophic bacteria
  • High-rate composting


  • Resource efficient, low or positive in energy, minimum emission of greenhouse gases (e.g. N2O)
  • Tools: Mass/substance flow analysis (MFA/SFA), life cycle analysis (LCA), economic assessment
  • Management of undesirable trace contaminants/emerging pollutants

For waste and side streams, and on primary resources

  • Households, industry, agriculture, aquaculture
  • In (semi)solid, liquid and gaseous matrices
  • Applications on Earth and in Space (regenerative life support systems, RLSS)


Nutrients play a pivotal role in sustaining global food security, relying on the biological upgrading of simple inorganic fertilizer molecules such as ammonium to precious nutritional compounds such as essential amino acids. The inefficiencies and losses along the food production chain and upon consumption however yield unacceptable environmental changes. This profiling of mainly nitrogen and phosphorus as double-edged swords is additionally entangled to (fossil) energy and (fresh) water demand. By 2050, the tension on this nexus will strongly increase, with figures of 30, 40 and 50% for water, energy, and food respectively.

The research team of prof. dr. ir. Siegfried E. Vlaeminck endeavors to alleviate tensions in the nutrient-energy-water nexus through a dedicated focus on novel resource-efficient nutrient management biotechnology, bearing in mind the boundaries of local socio-economic situations. The particular core expertise lies in the design of bioreactors and process configurations, along with the development of dedicated microbiome steering tools. In the philosophy of sustainability, maximum efficiency of resources (e.g. energy and chemicals) and minimum emissions of harmful compounds (e.g. N2O) are the guiding compasses. This renders a niche for removal, recovery and production technologies. For the latter two, dedicated attention is oriented toward the market demand side, meeting requirements in terms of quantity and quality of end-users.

Prof. Vlaeminck’s bioconversion interests encompass biological nutrient recovery (micro-algae, photoheterotrophs, single cell protein,…), short-cut nitrogen removal (partial nitritation/anammox and nitritation/denitritation), biological phosphorus removal, conventional biological nitrogen removal, reuse of recovered products,... The influent scope ranges from domestic over industrial to agricultural or aquacultural streams, be it in end-of-pipe collection systems or in source separation schemes (e.g. black, brown, grey, yellow water). Besides the terrestrial context, a dedicated focus is oriented toward biological life support systems for Space. The group’s methodology spans from lab- to full-scale reactors and from microbial analyses to process control and microbiome management.

By doing so, prof. Vlaeminck and his team aim to ambitiously contribute in rendering global food production more sustainable at the level of the environment, the economy and the society at large. 


Campus Groenenborger
Groenenborgerlaan 171
2020 Antwerpen
Tel. 032653689
Fax 032653225