Biosynthesis of Polyhydroxyalkanoate Polymers from Industrial Wastewater

EPA Grant Number: R825370C071
Subproject: this is subproject number 071 , established and managed by the Center Director under grant R825370
(EPA does not fund or establish subprojects; EPA awards and manages the overall grant for this center).

Center: EERC - National Center for Clean Industrial and Treatment Technologies (CenCITT)
Center Director: Crittenden, John C.
Title: Biosynthesis of Polyhydroxyalkanoate Polymers from Industrial Wastewater
Investigators: Noguera, Daniel R.
Institution: University of Wisconsin - Madison
EPA Project Officer: Klieforth, Barbara I
Project Period: January 1, 1997 through January 1, 1999
RFA: Exploratory Environmental Research Centers (1992) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Center for Clean Industrial and Treatment Technologies (CenCITT) , Targeted Research


The main goal of this project is to explore the use of industrial wastewater as an inexpensive food source for polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA) accumulating bacteria.

Specific objectives include:
1) evaluate the possibility of operating a biological process to maximize PHA production without compromising the quality of waste treatment,
2) test two different types of industrial wastewater for their potential utilization as raw material for PHA production, and
3) isolate and characterize efficient PHA-accumulating organisms from dual-purpose biological processes.


This project is divided into four different tasks. During Task 1, analytical methods for PHA extraction and characterization will be implemented. Task 2 involves the operation of a bench-scale sequencing batch reactor to evaluate the operation of a biological process for the dual purpose of waste treatment and PHA recovery. The reactor will be maintained at a fixed solids retention time, but excess biomass will be removed at two different stages during the operational cycle, at the end of the anaerobic stage when cells are loaded with PHA, and at the end of the aerobic stage as is normally done in nutrient removal treatment processes.

During Task 3, the reactor will be operated with two different types of industrial wastewater, one simulating a carbon and nutrient-rich waste and the second one simulating a carbon-rich, nutrient-poor waste. During this operation, the accumulation of PHA will be characterized for different operational conditions (e.g., percent of wastage from anaerobic and aerobic stages will be varied). An alternative evaluation during this stage of the project will involve operation of the reactor with a pure culture of Ralstonia eutrophus, a known PHA-accumulating bacteria. The final task of the project is the isolation of microorganisms, from the bench-scale reactor, that are capable of storing PHA.

A gas chromatographic technique for PHA quantification and characterization has been implemented. The bench scale sequencing batch reactor has been designed and constructed. The reactor was seeded with mixed liquor from a municipal wastewater treatment plant (Madison, WI) and has been in operation for about 40 days using synthetic wastewater. This start-up time was longer than originally expected. Experiments to characterize PHA recovery when sludge wastage is from the anaerobic and aerobic stages have been recently initiated. Because of unexpected delays during start-up, the schedule for reactor operation during Tasks 2 and 3 of the project will be modified. The isolation of PHA-accumulating microorganisms has not been initiated.

Expected Results:

PHAs are polymers of microbial origin that can be used for the manufacturing of biodegradable plastics. A significant cost in the commercial production of PHA-based plastics is the substrate used for the growth of the microorganisms. Thus, using industrial wastewater as the raw material could potentially reduce the cost of PHA production and increase the marketability of this environmentally benign product.

PHA accumulating bacteria are known to exist in biological wastewater treatment plants. The type of PHA stored depends on the characteristics of the food source. Thus, from biological processes fed with industrial wastewater it might be possible to isolate PHA-accumulating bacteria with unique PHA accumulating characteristics. These organisms might be of value for future biotechnological developments for PHA manufacturing.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this subproject: View all 1 publications for this subprojectView all 155 publications for this center

Supplemental Keywords:

technology for sustainable environment, environmental chemistry, clean technology, environmental engineering, pollution prevention, cleaner production, catalytic hydrogenation, lactic acid, gas chromatography, industrial wastewater, biodegradable plastics, waste treatment., RFA, Scientific Discipline, INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION, Water, TREATMENT/CONTROL, Ecosystem Protection/Environmental Exposure & Risk, POLLUTANTS/TOXICS, Sustainable Industry/Business, Chemical Engineering, cleaner production/pollution prevention, Sustainable Environment, Environmental Chemistry, Wastewater, Technology, Chemistry, Chemicals, Technology for Sustainable Environment, computing technology, pollution prevention, Engineering, Environmental Engineering, cleaner production, industrial wastewater, clean technologies, pollution prevention design tool, data sharing, clean technology, computer science, modeling, pollution control, Clean Process Advisory System (CPAS), polymers, computer simulation modeling, environmental simulation and design tools, pollution prevention design, environmental data, biosynthesis, pollution prevention model, clean manufacturing designs

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 1997
  • Final

  • Main Center Abstract and Reports:

    R825370    EERC - National Center for Clean Industrial and Treatment Technologies (CenCITT)

    Subprojects under this Center: (EPA does not fund or establish subprojects; EPA awards and manages the overall grant for this center).
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    R825370C046 Clean Process Advisory System (CPAS) Core Activities
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    R825370C054 Predictive Tool for Ultrafiltration Performance
    R825370C055 Heuristic Reactor Design for Clean Synthesis and Processing - Separative Reactors
    R825370C056 Characterization of Selective Solid Acid Catalysts Towards the Rational Design of Catalytic Reactions
    R825370C057 Environmentally Conscious Manufacturing: Prediction of Processing Waste Streams for Discrete Products
    R825370C064 The Physical Properties Management System (PPMS™): A P2 Engineering Aid to Support Process Design and Analysis
    R825370C065 Development and Testing of Pollution Prevention Design Aids for Process Analysis and Decision Making
    R825370C066 Design Tools for Chemical Process Safety: Accident Probability
    R825370C067 Environmentally Conscious Manufacturing: Design for Disassembly (DFD) in De-Manufacturing of Products
    R825370C068 An Economic Comparison of Wet and Dry Machining
    R825370C069 In-Line Copper Recovery Technology
    R825370C070 Selective Catalytic Hydrogenation of Lactic Acid
    R825370C071 Biosynthesis of Polyhydroxyalkanoate Polymers from Industrial Wastewater
    R825370C072 Tin Zeolites for Partial Oxidation Catalysis
    R825370C073 Development of a High Performance Photocatalytic Reactor System for the Production of Methanol from Methane in the Gas Phase
    R825370C074 Recovery of Waste Polymer Generated by Lost Foam Technology in the Metal Casting Industry
    R825370C075 Industrial Implementation of the P2 Framework
    R825370C076 Establishing Automated Linkages Between Existing P2-Related Software Design Tools
    R825370C077 Integrated Applications of the Clean Process Advisory System to P2-Conscious Process Analysis and Improvement
    R825370C078 Development of Environmental Indices for Green Chemical Production and Use