Mix and match to investigate sustainable solutions for environmental challenges

About the modular bioreactor platform

The Modular Bioreactor Platform consists of different types of bioreactors that can be used in sequential and/or parallel configuration. The platform is specifically suitable for investigating sustainable solutions for environmental challenges. In brief, it allows investigation of undefined complex waste streams with undefined microbial communities in defined reactors. 

Wageningen University & Research
sustainable solutions, micropollutants removal, outdoor constructed wetlands, bio-electrochemical systems, high pressure, high temperature reactors

Frequently asked questions

The Modular Bioreactor Platform is specifically suitable for investigating sustainable solutions for environmental challenges, such as degradation of (micro)pollutants, sustainable energy generation and recovery of resources from complex waste streams. For more examples on the type of research that can be done, please consult the technical details or related blog posts below.

The flexible arrangement of automatic sampling and analytical equipment enables the investigation of a number of environmental conditions, such as redox, temperature, pressure and pH. It also allows the identification of the compounds transformed and produced by the present microbial community. 

The Modular Bioreactor Platform consists of multiple units of different types of bioreactors that can be used in a cascaded set-up as sequential reactors (technology trains) and/or in parallel configuration to allow for the direct comparison of different reactor systems. The reactors range from standard bioreactors to outdoor constructed wetlands. For more info, see the technical details below.


Experimental units

The different reactor configurations that all can be used in sequential and parallel configurations are described in detail below:

  • Standard bioreactors (1 to 5 L, eight units)

These bioreactors are used to study oligotrophic ecosystems, i.e. ecosystems with low nutrients or carbon sources for microbial growth (groundwater systems or wastewater treatment systems). For example, sequences of reactor configurations are proposed for micropollutants removal (de Wilt et al., 2014 and Gadipelly et al, 2014). In the Modular Bioreactor platform, combinations of reactor configurations can be tested sequentially or in parallel in custom-made systems, increasing the efficiency and reproducibility of the treatment technologies. Identifying the involved microbial processes (e.g. metabolic or co-metabolic processes) enables the development of sustainable treatment systems. In addition, combinations with physical/chemical technologies (e.g. ozonation, activated carbon, membrane filtration) can also be studied at lab scale.

  • Outdoor constructed wetlands (12 m3, two units)

Constructed wetlands (CWs) are designed to mimic natural processes that use plants and soil to treat wastewater in a controlled environment and are affordable and sustainable systems. . Especially aerobic and anaerobic biodegradation by undefined microbial communities comprises a key removal mechanism for compounds in CWs. A CW can be adjusted to the compounds that need to be removed, and pre-treatment (e.g. photo-oxidation) or post-treatment (biological polishing) is also possible in the Modular Bioreactor platform.

  • Bio-electrochemical systems (BES, four units)

BESs are emerging biologically driven technologies that have the potential for clean and efficient conversions of energy (Geppert et al., 2016). Up to now, the potential of BESs is widely acknowledged, but the main bottleneck for implementation so far, is the limited understanding of the key mechanisms and the fate of electrons. Insights in dominant charge storage mechanisms and the involved microbial population, would definitely improve the understanding of the energy production from complex waste streams.

  • High pressure, high temperature reactors (two units)

Anaerobic conversion of organic residues provides the means to efficiently produce renewable chemicals.. A possibility to overcome this limitation is the production of high-grade biogas from slurries and waste water at high pressure. At such conditions, the different solubility at increasing pressure between CH4 and CO2 results in biogas that meets the quality of our Synthetic Natural Gas (SNG), or “green-gas”. Insight in the mixed microbial community that is able to withstand high pressures, will result in more robust conversion processes.

Integration with other platforms

This platform facilitates high resolution experiments with non-defined microbial communities, using a reductionist enrichment approach. Additionally, using a synthetic ecology approach, a defined mixtures of microorganisms  established in the Biodiscovery Platform can be investigated as well. To our knowledge, there is worldwide no other platform that enables the study of combinations of reactor types. Still, the added value is obvious. It allows scientists to study processes in different reactor types (sequential or parallel) and analysis of mixed microbial community functioning at high scale and resolution. Finally, the cloud-based FAIR Data Platform facilitates storage and accessibility of both functional and molecular data obtained.