Project: Application of electromagnetic field to biofouling/biofilm prevention in water distribution systems

Our project “Elma-Prevent” aims to develop a process for treating waters so as to cure and prevent both scaling and biofilm development in water distribution systems using the application of an electromagnetic field (EMF). This second submission of the project, which was first submitted to Eurostars in 2011, takes advantage of the remarks and criticisms done by the committee. It aims to demonstrate the efficiency of a low EMF to prohibit mineral deposition and also biofilm development, a definitively new target. This project will be carried out in 26 months by combining the expertise and skills of one SME (Planet Horizons Technologies SA, PHT), with three research laboratories involved for a long time in industrial Pships (CNRS-EBI, CNRS-LCPME and CNRS-LRGP) with competences in water chemistry and microbiology, in particular in regards to carbonate precipitation, biofilm, pathogenic bacteria and free living amoebas._x000D__x000D_Indeed a microbial activity in distribution systems occurs in water, on pipe surfaces and in all kinds of deposits, which have accumulated on pipes walls and storage tanks. Such typical surface pipes colonisation is usually described as biofouling (minerals, scales, and biofilm). The biofilm is made of a complex matrix of bacteria and fungi, bound together in a sticky gel of organic exopolymers and other organic contaminants. This slimy layer anchors firmly the biomass to the surfaces and provides a protective environment to grow and reproduce (Flemming and Wingender 2010). Biofilms, as dynamic systems, continuously release microorganisms and thus contaminate the water bulk. Therefore biofilms are recognised as a permanent source of contamination of the waters flowing in distribution systems. In addition, biofilms are substrate for active colonies of pathogens (Wingender and Flemming 2011)._x000D__x000D_Then negative impacts of such biofilm and scaling are well-known. According to the situation and the application doCO, different problems can occur: pipes clogging as well as sanitary risks when pathogen bacteria are present (Pseudomonas, Legionella). Additionally, free amoebas, that feed on biofilms, are described as reservoirs of pathogenic bacteria in the environment. Thus, limiting the proliferation of amoeba in water networks is therefore of primary importance to limit such undesirable bacteria growth (Thomas and Ashbolt 2011)._x000D__x000D_Can we limit or remove both biofilms and scaling? Conventional treatments with chlorine, hydrogen peroxide, chlorine dioxide are not effective against bacteria embedded in biofilm (Mathieu et al. 2011) nor pathogens (Bodet et al. 2012) because their diffusion is limited in the biofilm matrix. Thus the treatment with oxidants is not a way to eliminate biofilm and to clean the pipes surfaces._x000D_Very few alternatives currently exist to reach a good cleaning of water distribution systems (chemical or mechanical process). All the traditional procedures are cumbersome and time consuming (SecurEau, 2010). Moreover most of them require discontinuous applications. The EM technology for the prevention of scaling and biofilms could represent a major breakthrough with a lot of applications in practice. The market would be in particular the cooling towers, the municipal water networks, wellness centres, hospitals and industries in which biofilm is a major constant worry and danger and it is expensive to eliminate._x000D__x000D_EM or magnetic water treatments are well-known in the field of scaling prevention for buildings even if the mechanisms of such treatments are not well documented. In fact, with an EM treatment, there is an unlimited choice of signals to be used (kind of signal, strength, frequencies, combinations, etc.). Consequently efficiency of results can be obtained according to the adjustment of the EM signals, as well as the media used to transmit signals into water. Therefore there is actually no clear consensus on the efficiency and the serious of this technology. Only few international publications and field demonstrations with some serious companies have shown that EM treatment can be very efficient. These last years, new applications have been developed by PHT with this technology, for effective macroscopic surface cleaning in animal production sectors, and significant reduction in excess sludge production in wastewater sector._x000D_Throughout this project we aim to develop and confirm the feasibility and efficiency of this technology against biofilms in drinking water systems and cooling towers. Assays will be carried out both at laboratory (Propella™ reactors) and industrial scale for assessing performances of EM water treatment. The assays will target the prevention and the removal of biofilms and scaling formed in environmental conditions. As a consequence the EM technology - an environmental friendly solution with no use of chemicals and low energy consumption - will be diversified._x000D__x000D_

Acronym ELMA-PREVENT (Reference Number: 7397)
Duration 01/09/2012 - 31/10/2014
Project Topic This project will evaluate the full potential of electromagnetic water treatment to control scaling, biofilm and some pathogens like Pseudomonas, Legionella and free living amoeba (Acanthamoeba) as a novel approach to prevent contamination of biofilm and pathogens in water distribution systems.
Project Results
(after finalisation)
Our CO results showed that Aqua-4D® might disturb the water bacterial community and the formation and development of biofilm on clean stainless steel slides with natural water subjected to EMFs. Long-term studies (over several months) in pilot-scale and in real industrial and agricultural equipments need to be assessed to further strengthen our conlusions.
Network Eurostars
Call Eurostars Cut-Off 8

Project partner

Number Name Role Country
4 CNRS-Laboratory of Physical Chemistry and Microbiology for the Environment Partner France
4 CNRS-Laboratory of Reaction and Process Engineering, UPR CNRS 3349 Partner France
4 CNRS-Laboratory Ecology and Biology of Interactions, UMR CNRS 7267 Partner France
4 Planet Horizons Technologies SA Coordinator Switzerland