Mark van Loosdrecht wins Lee Kuan Yew Water Prize 2012
Professor Van Loosdrecht has secured the prize primarily for his work on the development of an innovative biological process which can purify wastewater in a way that is relatively inexpensive, robust and sustainable. This process, known as Anammox, involves a reduction in energy consumption, CO2 emissions and the amount of chemicals required.
'I am genuinely honoured to have been awarded this, the most prestigious prize for water technology. It will provide an additional boost to ensure that my research continues to contribute to sustainable solutions that can be applied in the modern world while simultaneously protecting the quality of our valuable water', says Van Loosdrecht.
The Anammox process is based on a unique group of bacteria, discovered in the 1990s by researchers at TU Delft, led by Prof. Kuenen. These bacteria can convert ammonia into harmless nitrogen gas without the use of oxygen or other additives.
Biological nitrogen removal systems are set to achieve significant energy savings worldwide through the use of Anammox. In modern countries, it is estimated that traditional wastewater purification accounts for between 1% and 3% of all energy consumption.
Van Loosdrecht was closely involved in the construction of the first Anammox demonstration plant by Paques bv, in Rotterdam. By 2011, there were eleven completely Anammox plants in operation, and a variation on the process is being used in more than thirty other plants.
In addition to Anammox, the award is also in recognition of Van Loosdrecht's work on the development of other technologies, including Sharon, BABE and especially the aerobic granular sludge 'Nereda'. Van Loosdrecht: 'Nereda and Anammox are both granular sludge technologies. Granular sludge technology is a truly Dutch development, pioneered by Delft alumnus Prof. Gatze Lettinga.'
Like Anammox, the Nereda process is based on a group of microorganisms that convert waste materials into harmless substances. In conventional purification processes, these microorganisms form flakes that can only gradually be separated from the purified water. In the Nereda process, however, the bacteria form compact sludge granules which quickly sink to the bottom. These compact granules result in a spectacular increase in the processing speed of the reactor. Also significant amounts of energy are saved and the resulting water is even cleaner. The system requires up to 75% less space, because conventional large sedimentation tanks are no longer necessary. The Nereda research is currently being continued at TU Delft with the support of STOWA and engineering consultancy DHV.
The Nereda technology is considered to be an important new Dutch technology, on the brink of a major international breakthrough. Various industrial installations are already operating in the Netherlands and there are full-scale demonstration systems for domestic wastewater in Portugal and South Africa. Recently, the first full-scale system for domestic wastewater purification was realised by the Veluwe Water Board. A large number of systems are in development, including one for the municipality of Stellenbosch in South Africa, the Rijn and IJssel Water Board and the Regge and Dinkel Water Board in the Netherlands.
Van Loosdrecht, also principle researcher at the Dutch KWR Watercycle Research Institute: 'The Netherlands is a pioneer in the field of water technology, especially thanks to Anammox and Nereda. This is partly owing to the successful alliances in research and development between universities, Water Boards and businesses. The willingness of the Water Boards to pursue innovation and share facilities has played an important role in this.'
Provided by Delft University of Technology