The company Aqua in Silico, a spin off created by Jorge Santos, Mariana Matos and Maria Ascensão Reis from the Biochemical Engineering Lab at UCIBIO-FCT NOVA, is developing software tools to optimise wastewater treatment across many different industries. Aqua in Silico was launched in partnership with Frontier IP, a specialist in commercialising intellectual property.
Aqua In Silico was established to develop and commercialise the research of Jorge Santos, developed during is PhD thesis at the Biochemical Engineering Lab at UCIBIO-FCT NOVA, together with Mariana Matos, researcher in the same lab, and Maria Reis, leader of the research lab. They have developed sophisticated algorithms, based on deep knowledge of biological and chemical processes, able to understand and predict how they unfold in different operating conditions. These include detecting possible problems with processes, often before they can be diagnosed by humans.
This will allow companies, such as oil groups, brewers, pulp, paper, steel makers, food processing and waste recovery businesses and municipal wastewater treatment plants, to tune and adapt their treatment systems more effectively, and is expected to save them up to 25 per cent of their operating costs. It also supports the improved recovery of valuable and recyclable products, such as nutrients, biogas, and volatile fatty acids that can be used in biofertilisers and biofuels. The Company believes this could result in new sustainable technologies in future.
One early application of the technology will be to make the removal and reuse of phosphorus from wastewater plants, which is widely used in fertiliser, more environmentally friendly and effective. Current phosphorus extraction methods use chemicals that bind to the phosphorus and precipitate it. However, it is difficult and expensive to break the connection between the binder and the phosphorus. AquaInSilico uses a mathematically-modelled biological approach to remove phosphorus, based on controlling the operating variables. As a result, the process reduces the use of chemicals and energy, and produces phosphorus that can be sold. This reduces the risk of environmental harm from phosphorus leaching into waterways from wastewater sludge. The phosphorus itself can be resold for use in fertilisers, and other industrial applications.
Aqua In Silico co-founder, Jorge Santos, said: "We are very excited to be working with Frontier IP on bringing our tools to the market after 30 years of cutting-edge research. We anticipate that these tools will have a high impact on the wastewater industry, as the sector is moving faster towards digitalisation and circular economy."
Frontier IP Chief Executive Officer, Neil Crabb, said: "AquaInSilico is a further sign of the strong progress we are making in Portugal - it is our fourth spin off in the country, and the third from our relationship with FCT NOVA. The Company's ground-breaking software tools could transform wastewater treatment across a wide range of industries and lead to other new technologies being developed."