On a recent visit to Stellenbosch University, Debbie Shaw from Labotec interviewed Dr Elanna Bester from their Microbiology Department on the on-going research in Biofilm ecology, which started in the early 1990’s, about where they are with this research currently.
Biofilm Ecology investigates microorganisms growing on surfaces. This department currently concentrates on combinations of algae and yeast to offset pollutants or impurities in wastewater that may affect the water, soil and environment.
Labotec supplied a large volume Hirayama autoclave, the HV 85 series some time ago, which is acting as a workhorse to sterilise and disinfect the large volumes of growth media the research lab requires for their research. This research has significance and adds value in the chain to help preserve our natural resources.
“The biggest expansion we have made recently involves persistent organic pollutants such as pharmaceutical products not necessarily removed from water, so levels of products are potentially a problem as it accumulates.” Here we are working on processors to remove those pharma products from water using micro-organisms. Microorganisms sit on the surface and utilise nutrients growing there. Using Biofilms to cultivate these organisms we can look at manganese removal and ion removal in natural systems,” says Dr Elanna Bester. She added, “Several other research groups at the university are involved in wastewater treatment processes.”
The Hirayama HV-85 the department uses is capable of continuously sterilising and disinfecting the media before and after an experiment is conducted using a one-touch lever to easily open and lock the lid chamber. Dual sensing and safety systems ensure the process runs smoothly. Programmes can be automated with start time, and during the cycle, and built-in timers can process for instance agar. Parameters can be set for different modes. This helps to quickly and efficiently produce the required large volumes of growth media the research lab needs to cultivate organisms in a biofilm.
The University’s research focus within the Microbiology Department, consists of the work done by eight post-grad research laboratories, as well as aspects of environmental biology and yeast biotechnology. Here, research projects have emphasis on