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New formula for combating the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide
Date:4/2/2008

are converted into the greenhouse gas N2O by natural microbial processes (nitrification and denitrification). One of the key concerns of the European Water Framework Directive (WFD), which came into force in 2000, is the reduction of nitrogen-containing nutrients in waterbodies. One approach is to avoid or optimise the use of nitrogen fertilizers in agriculture. Another approach is to improve wastewater treatment technologies.

Current biological treatment methods are based on the microbial processes of nitrification and denitrification. Although these methods make it possible to treat wastewater containing high levels of nitrogen safely, they also have a considerable disadvantage: the nitrogen that is removed is primarily released into the atmosphere in the form of the greenhouse gas N2O. This is a dilemma in that water protection and climate protection have until now been mutually exclusive.

During experiments with the treatment of nitrogen-contaminated wastewater at the beginning of the 1990s, a previously unknown microbial process was discovered that can break down the main components of the nitrogen contamination in the wastewater (ammonium and nitrate) in the presence of atmospheric oxygen (anaerobically). The only end product is environmentally neutral molecular nitrogen (N2). Exploiting this process, called anammox, to clean nitrogenous wastewater could in future lead to an entirely climate-neutral treatment of municipal wastewater. In addition, unlike the microbial processes used until now, the anammox process does not require organic nutrients, so in future it will be possible to manage without the addition of nutrients during the treatment process. This will reduce the cost of wastewater treatment still further.

However, particularly with regard to the development of efficient wastewater treatment systems, research into the anammox process is still posing significant problems more than 15 years afte
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Contact: Tilo Arnhol
presse@ufz.de
49-341-235-1635
Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres
Source:Eurekalert  

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