Posted: Tuesday 23rd September 2014

Warden Biomedia, the Luton-based manufacturer of filter media, has established a partnership with Cranfield University to find more effective wastewater treatment methods. The industry/academia link will focus research and development expertise on biofilm processes with the aim of improving the efficiency, cost-effectiveness and sustainability of process units such as SAF, MBBR and trickling filters.

Warden Plastics has been a leading manufacturer of filter media for aerobic wastewater treatment for more than 20 years. Currently the company manufactures five different types of random filter media, injection-moulded in polypropylene, with specific design features to increase the efficiency of the biological process. As managing director, Mark Barrett explains, however, the partnership with Cranfield University is focused on the future rather than the past.

“We believe that this approach to wastewater treatment holds much greater potential than is currently being harnessed” commented Mark. “Our objective in sponsoring this postgraduate research project is to provide a foundation for the next generation of biofilm processes, which will enable our customers to tap into even greater opportunities”.

The research will be carried out under the supervision of the highly-respected Cranfield University Water Science Institute. Operating in this field of research for almost 40 years, the Institute has significant breadth and depth of expertise in water processes, with 15 academics and around 60 PhD students. Cranfield is a postgraduate-only university, working in close collaboration with industry and all of its PhD students have industrial sponsors.

The project will begin with an MSc thesis due to be completed by postgraduate student Joana Manuel Silva Dias. This will be followed by a PhD project, structured across 6 research phases, culminating in a final thesis towards the end of 2017. The project will be supervised by Dr Ana Soares, Lecturer in Biological Engineering and Water Programme Director.

The main objective of the PhD project is to gain detailed knowledge on the design, operation and efficiency of biofilm processes. This will encompass analysis of existing full-scale process units that use Warden’s Biomedia, and will also involve laboratory, and pilot and active, scale investigations of alternative design approaches.

Dr Ana Soares commented, “Collaboration between industry and academia is crucial for a project such as this. We are able to address fundamental questions and universal laws of water science, but we are also able to study how these apply and their implications across wastewater treatment applications.

“There are important pressures and drivers within the wastewater treatment industry, such as the need to reduce energy consumption, and the requirements of various regulatory frameworks. A partnership of this type enables us to consider all aspects of the process to develop more effective solutions”.

This is the first time that Warden Plastics has sponsored postgraduate research. Mark Barrett said, “This is an exciting development for our company. Our Biomedia range already offers significantly improved performance over alternative media, as well as being more environmentally-friendly. The traditional alternative is to use natural aggregates, from quarrying or dredging, or blast furnace clinker. These have limitations in terms of sustainability and availability. Our Biomedia provide significant advantages in that they are manufactured in recycled polypropylene, reusing plastics that would otherwise go to landfill. The research project will provide us with a deeper understanding of the science at the heart of these aerobic processes. This in turn will help us to see where best to focus our own investments in product development”.

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