Supporting sustainable solutions for wastewater treatment

AquaInSilico Lda has been granted EUR 60 000 EIT RawMaterials Booster funding to develop further its software tools to optimise wastewater treatment. The grant from EIT RawMaterials Booster will allow AquaInSilico to build on its collaboration with a leading European environmental, water and waste management group to commercialise its software tools to remove phosphorus from wastewater in a more environmentally friendly and effective way than existing methods. The recovered phosphorus can then be sold for use in fertilisers.

AquaInSilico Lda is a portfolio company of Frontier IP, a specialist in commercialising intellectual property. AquaInSilico’s technology is attracting interest because several European countries, including Germany, Switzerland, Sweden and Austria, are introducing stricter regulations that require large treatment plans to recover at least 50% of the phosphorus for use as a biofertiliser. This is causing utility problems because current methods use expensive and environmentally unfriendly chemicals to bind the phosphorus or biological processes that, although cheaper and more sustainable, do not work more than 45% of the time properly.

AquaInSilico’s wastewater treatment software uses a mathematically-modelled biological approach to improve phosphorus removal, based on understanding and controlling the operating variables that result from biological and chemical processes. As a result, the process reduces the use of chemicals and energy and the risk of environmental harm from phosphorus leaching into waterways from wastewater sludge.

AquaInSilico is a spin-out from Portugal’s NOVA University, NOVA School of Science and Technology (“FCT NOVA”) and is the fourth spin-out resulting from Frontier IP’s growing presence in Portugal.

Broad applicability of a new software

As the sophisticated algorithms the company is developing are based on a deep knowledge of biological and chemical processes and are able to understand and predict how they unfold in different conditions, they can detect possible problems, often before they can be diagnosed by humans. As a result, the technology has broad applicability, with the potential to 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. It is expected to save them up to 25% of their operating costs.

AquaInSilico’s software also supports the improved recovery of other valuable and recyclable products in addition to phosphorus, such as ammonia, biogas, and fine chemicals that can be used in biofertilisers, bioplastics and biofuels. The company believes this could result in new sustainable technologies in future.

AquaInSilico was established to develop and commercialise the research of Dr Jorge Santos, Dr Mariana Matos and Professor Maria Ascensão Reis of FCT NOVA. This team had developed several research projects in environmental and industrial bioengineering in collaboration with several worldwide industry players.

We are very happy for this EIT RawMaterials Booster grant, which offers us the opportunity to speed up our technology readiness level and reach the market with a solution that recovers critical raw materials from waste to new bio-based products.

Dr Jorge Santos, Co-Founder at AquaInSilico

AquaInSilico has been making good progress in collaboration with its industry partners, progress reflected and validated by the award of this grant to commercialise the technology.

Neil Crabb, Chief Executive Officer at Frontier IP