March 19, 2024 | University Partners

Grant of £6.1 million awarded to researchers in Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) to commercialise wastewater

Researchers at Glasgow Caledonian University aim to develop sustainable alternatives to polyacrylamide polymers, potentially for applications in water treatment or related environmental processes.

The Water Research Group at the University is leading innovative research efforts within a consortium of industry, academic and water-sector partners, having secured £6.1 million in OFWAT innovation funding.

This significant grant will empower an interdisciplinary team from the School of Computing, Engineering, and Built Environment (SCEBE) and the Research Innovation Office (RIO) as they strive to create sustainable alternatives to polyacrylamide polymers. Their approach involves harnessing biopolymers naturally produced by bacteria in wastewater treatment and crafting an end-of-waste strategy to bring these eco-friendly products to market.

Biopolymers emerge as a green alternative to synthetic polymers such as polyacrylamides, which have drawn environmental scrutiny due to their persistence and potential toxicity. By embracing biopolymers, the team aims to maintain functionality akin to synthetic alternatives while mitigating adverse environmental impacts.

The four-year project, titled "Biopolymers in the Circular Economy (BICE)," has secured more than £600,000 in research funding for Glasgow Caledonian University. Led by Dr Ania Escudero (Principal Investigator, SCEBE) and Dr Fiona Henderson (End-of-Waste Work Package Lead, RIO), alongside co-investigators Dr Colin Hunter, Dr Karin Helwig, Dr Joanne Roberts, and Professor Ole Pahl, the consortium includes partners such as United Utilities, Cranfield University, Royal HaskoningDHV, Severn Trent Water, South West Water, Cellvation, Yara, and Aquaminerals.

Dr Escudero said: "Biopolymers offer water companies and customers the opportunity to access fully sustainable raw materials for producing various high-value products. Leveraging biopolymers from wastewater and sludge opens pathways to circular economies. Moreover, it supports our industry in achieving Net Zero Carbon by 2030 by reducing our reliance on manufactured polymers used in daily operational activities.”