News & Events
Novel insights into the microbes of the largest biotechnological process in the world: Biological nutrient removal
Speaker(s): Prof Per H Nielsen, Center for Microbial Communities, Department of Chemistry and Bioscience, Aalborg University, Denmark
When: 15 February 2016 (4:30)
Where: SBS Classroom 3 (Level 1)
Type: Seminars


The unprecedented development in DNA technologies over the past 10 years has revolutionized the capabilities to investigate and understand the microbes as the key to sustainable development in water and wastewater treatment, bioremediation, recovery of nutrients, production of bioenergy and production of bio-chemicals. The vast majority of microbes cannot be isolated and cultivated in the laboratory and thus constitute biological “dark matter” of which we understand very little. The presentation will focus on two recent exciting discoveries related to the removal/recovery of phosphorus and nitrogen. Biological phosphorus removal is carried out by specialized polyphosphate accumulating organisms and new comprehensive full-scale studies have revealed hitherto poorly described microbes. The identity, diversity, distribution and their novel type of physiology during dynamic aerobic/anaerobic conditions will be described. Nitrification is a key process in nitrogen removal, and recently we were involved in the discovery that oxidation of ammonium to nitrate can be carried out by one single species from the genus Nitrospira. This novel “comammox” process will be described and the impact on our understanding of the nitrogen cycle discussed.


Biography: Per Halkjær Nielsen is full professor at the Department of Chemistry and Bioscience at Aalborg University, Denmark where he is heading the multidisciplinary Center for Microbial Communities. He is also visiting professor at SCELSE. His research group has been active in environmental biotechnology for over 25 years, focusing on microbial ecology of biological wastewater treatment, bioremediation, bioenergy production, biofilms, infection of implants and development of systems microbiology approaches based on new sequencing technologies. He chaired the IWA specialist group “Microbial Ecology and Water Engineering” for 8 years (2005-2013), is Chair of the IWA BioCluster, he is an IWA fellow, has received several prestigious awards and has more than 230 peer reviewed publications in the field.