Oxfordshire-based Microbial Solutions has raised £1.2m to commercialise a wastewater treatment technology which removes metalworking fluids from industrial processes using bacteria.
The process developed by the newly formed research centre, a spinout from the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) owned Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, uses a patent protected collection of ‘clever’ non-pathogenic bacteria.
Current disposal processes for the oily lubricants used to ensure clean cutting processes during drilling and manufacturing require the used fluids to be transported offsite by tanker to specialist treatment facilities. These treatment processes are energy intensive, expensive, and can leave a toxic residue.
Microbial Solutions’ on-site bacterial process can treat metal working fluids within seven to 10 days, producing grey water that is safe to dispose of in the sewerage system, and with no production of methane, a greenhouse gas.
The technology has been successfully trialled with a leading car manufacturer. Microbial Solutions has now moved to new office and laboratory facilities in Oxfordshire, and is set to conduct a commercial pilot of its patent protected bacterial treatment, known as Microcycle Technology, at the site of a major aerospace manufacturer.
Microbial Solutions uses a simple bioreactor containing a meshed plastic grid on which a variety of non-pathogenic bacteria are cultivated. Each bacterial species feeds off different components of the metal working fluids, together ‘eating’ the polluting and toxic elements. The resulting grey water is disposed of in the sewage system, removing the need to transport to landfill, and the next batch of metal working fluid is added to repeat the process.