Technology: Pet reactor that eats solvents

 作者:卓扒龃     |      日期:2019-02-28 02:17:02
By ANDY COGHLAN Russian biotechnologists have struck a deal with a British company to make and sell novel antipollution devices to Western customers. The devices, originally developed for purifying air aboard Russian submarines, are vessels full of bacteria which break down toxic air pollutants called volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Inventors of the Bioreaktor system at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Bakh Institute of Biochemistry in Moscow claim that they can customise it for dealing with different blends of VOCs. ‘We have access to a wide variety of bacteria selected for their ability to degrade VOCs,’ explains John Mole, the British businessman who brokered the Russian-British deal. ‘Because we know which bacterial strains cope with which VOCs, we can tailor a Bioreaktor for each customer,’ he says. The aim is to sell the systems to firms in the printing, paint, adhesives and furniture industries, where the use of solvents based on VOCs is widespread. The Bioreaktor’s main vessel is 3 metres high and 2 metres wide. Inside, bonded to screens made from artificial fibres, are bacteria that digest VOCs, converting them into carbon dioxide and water. Mole says that the Bakh Institute stores vast libraries of bacteria that can degrade ethanol, benzene, ethyl acetate, cyclohexane, xylene, phenol, toluene, and many other problematic VOCs. ‘The reactor sits like a pet in the corner, quietly doing its job,’ says Mole. All it requires is cooling water – because the bacteria work at room temperature – and small amounts of nutrients. The reactors can process up to 20 000 cubic metres of gaseous effluent per hour. Mole says that the Bioreaktor destroys 98 per cent of the VOCs in an airborne effluent, and is cheaper, smaller and more efficient than alternatives, such as charcoal filters, incinerators, and wet scrubbers. He says that the first one was installed four years ago at a furniture factory in Seratov, south of Moscow. ‘It has been working for four years without any problems, because it’s a self-sustaining system.’ Since then, he says, another ten or so have been installed, the most recent in a shoe factory in Moscow. Mole’s company, InBio, acts as the British agent for Innovational Biotechnologies, a company set up by five individuals at the Bakh Institute to commercialise technologies. Last week’s deal weds the Russian partners with Sutcliffe Croftshaw, an engineering firm in Ashton-in-Makerfield near Wigan in Lancashire. The British firm will manufacture the Bioreaktor vessels and the accompanying equipment, and sell and service the devices in Britain. The first one has already been commissioned and is due to be installed this autumn at a printing works in the northwest of England. Mole says that it will destroy toluene,