Biofiltration is a technology that dates back to the 1960s in wastewater treatment plants. Today, these plants still use biofiltration to control odors and, more importantly, eliminate contaminants from water.
Microbes, or microorganisms that feed on organic materials, are at the center of the biofiltration process. In wastewater treatment, microbes live in big water tanks, converting harmful pollutants in wastewater into energy. It’s a symbiotic relationship: The microbes happily feast on the harmful organic matter, and people get treated wastewater they can safely release back into the environment.
Now, Dewidar wants to entice these hungry microbes with organic compounds from paint booth emissions. But there are obvious challenges, the first being the very composition of the chemicals.
Paint booths release the compounds in their gaseous state. In this form, some of them are insoluble, a problem for microbes that exist in a biofilm that is mostly water.
“Wastewater treatment is less challenging because the contaminants are in the water itself. It’s not transferred from phase to phase,” Dewidar said. “In our case, the contaminants are in the air, but they need to be available in the water.”