Saturday, November 2, 2013

Challenging R&D in forest industry: not only paper and timber products

"The largest forest industry centre in Europe is located in South-Eastern Finland", says the back cover text of this abstract booklet of Summer School 9.-10. September 2008 by Forest Industry Institute. Future forecasts, scenarios, innovations, specified methods - in an optimistic mood on those days. - But how today? Interesting to check the outcome of these ideas. - Looking forward...

Friday, November 1, 2013

Integrated Prevention of Microbial Growth in ecological niches of a paper mill

An average paper mill consists of several sites where waterborne and biofilm microorganisms can survive and grow. Different kind of populations can be found in different environments, e.g. wet mineral and starch slurries, coating pasts, white waters, pulps and brokes as well as all wet surfaces inside the paper production systems. The effective prevention of these sub-populations is depending of the biocide alternatives (storing, fast-acting or even sporicidic compounds) available. Their use should be combined with other measures, however: the prevention of their growth by process technology, production strategies, cleaning of the processes etc. - This combined activity, if clever planned, can the be called "Integrated Prevention of Microbial Growth".

The most beneficial tool for the planning of IPMG is the HACCP procedure which evaluates the potential microbiological hazards in every site and gives hints to choose the Critical Control Points in the total process.

But - what does the stimulation of microbial growth in a paper mill mean?

It shall be kept in mind when biological waste water treatment plant is the last step of the process water route from water source to recipient lake, river or sea. The growth conditions, in oppotie to those of manufacturing processes, should be as beneficial as possible to keep the growth rates of activated sludge or anaerobic treatment just on optimal level.

We have to understand the microbes and their needs when preventing or stimulating their growth activities. The count of microbes is only one variable - their responses to temperature, pH, redox potential and other growth factors, their metabolic features (e.g. sporulation-germination cycles), their tendencies to grow in water or surfaces) and other important factors should be taken into account when planning the programs for microbe prevention (inside the mill) or stimulation (biological waste water treatment).

- More about these issues in next posts...stay on the line.

(Schematic picture:  MENTU, J.V. 2001)

Friday, June 21, 2013

Pioneer of environmental microbiology!

I recall Dr. Howard E. Worne who was a pioneer in environmental microbiology, incl. bioleaching already on 70's. I met him in Finland when he was already over 70 years - very nice person, indeed.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The most frequent questions of industrial microbiology today?

Since the beginning of my blog, several years ago, I have collected some statistics about the questions which have been redirected from Internet search activities into my blog. The following "top three" is not actually statistically analyzed but still reviews my own opinion of the most important topics . The main issues, therefore, seem to be

* activated sludge
* hazardous bacteria (both pathogenic strains, like coliforms, in paper products and other specified pricrobiologyocess contaminants, like sulfate reducing bacteria, SRB's)
* prevention of biofilm and slime microorganisms

I have mainly focused on the effects of contaminating microbes in industrial processes. Biotechnological processes like production of beverages, antibiotics etc. have therefore excluded from my blog - the only exception is biological waste water treatment, however. I have also made a comparison between commercial bioreactors (fermentors) and paper machines because many similarities can be found when observing biotechnical productions  and process water systems of paper and board machines!

Despite my current focus on the environmental and mining microbiology, I still follow news concerning paper industry microbiology. I am also planning a mobile mibi service for small waste water purification units, agricultural facilities as well as for pulp & paper industry.

You are very welcome to follow my blog if these issues interest You!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

How to construct a rapid microbiological control for industrial processes and effluents?

How to construct an ON LINE analytical procedure to control the microbial growth in non-biotechnical processes like those in mining and paper manufacturing?

 First of all, it would be a good idea to map the microbiological problems of the process. They can be slime production by biofilm bacteria, biodeterioration of valuable raw materials or products, biocorrosion by sulfate reducing bacteria - these are the main subjects but, depending on the process in question, there are others, too. As an example, bacterial spores cause hazard for the hygiene of food packaging boards and papers, fermentative/anaerobic bacteria cause bad odours etc. HACCP (Hazard Analysis & Critical Control Points) examination, applied first in food industry over decades ago, helps a lot (more about HACCP in other post).

 Next step (and very important one) is the chose of the analytical method. There are several of them and many alternatives have been reviewed already in 1990 when "RAMI-90", Sixth International Congress on Rapid Methods and Automation in Microbiology and Immunology was held in Helsinki-Espoo, Finland, 7-10. June 1990. The German institute "Papiertechnische Stiftung" has also performed evaluations of rapid mibi methods on 80's. A summarizing article called "Microbiological Control of Pigments and Fillers" was presented by me in PIRA Symposium, Cambridge, England in 1997 and published in the series of  "The Fundamentals of Papermaking Materials". It describes the evaluations performed in Research Centre of ENSO Ltd. (currently STORA ENSO Ltd) and Helsinki University / Dept. Appl.Chem. and Microbiology). Some novel methods have appeared after this publication but, as we found in this research, ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate) analysis seems to be a valuable tool even today.

 The microbiological variables to be controlled must also be taken into account. If total growth is the main subject of the control, rapid biochemical reactions like ATP Assay or staining of the cells with fluorochromes like Acridine Orange are recommended. These two measurements are relatively simple and their results - values of light emission or fluorescence - can easily be handled as raw data, derived by optical measurements. RR (Respiratory Rate) Test is slightly more complicated because a certain incubation period of the sample is needed but it can also be automatized. Two drawbacks of this method are its low sensitivity and selectivity (only microbes with aerobic respiration can be detected). Whenever some special species (like coliforms) or groups (like SRO's = Sulfate Reducing Bacteria) are to be controlled, more time and money consuming methods like selective cultivations (in PMEU) or PCR are needed - and they are also very difficult to apply into an ON LINE control system.

 Collection and use of the data derived from the processes shall also be planned. Time series with certain transformations are usually most beneficial meters to show any kind of trend in the densities of free-floating (= non-biofilm) microbes. Growth rates of single-cell microbes in water environment will usually be presented after log transformation of microbial densities which gives a straight line in xy plots when the time scale is presented with equal intervals (semi-logarithmic plot). This means that the alarm threshold should be set wisely because the amount of microbial cells increases with a factor of ten in every time unit and the period of time which are needed for growth from 10 to 100 cfu/ml or 1 000 to 10 000 cfu/ml are equal  (if anything like lack of nutrients or any kind of inhibition doesn't prevent the growth). Statistical conclusions of biofilm and filamentous microbes will follow other guidelines and semi-logarithmic plot may not be the best framework to collect data. Solutions for the questions of statistical significance of rising or dropping microbial densities can be found in special textbooks like "Statistical Methods in Biology" by Norman T J Bailey (Edward Arnold, London). A Finnish  lesson about this subject, written by me for professional training centers, is also available by request.

Economical considerations will not be discussed deeper here because they are very much depending on the equipment and reagents. A very rough estimate for the price of one analysis is 10 - 30 € (which is, by the way, a relevant estimate for colony count analyses, too). When planning an automatized system, commercial instruments like luminometers may be applied to the system but they have to be modified to work  ON LINE (sampling, dosing of reagents, cleaning of the detectors etc.). The costs of control are very much depending on the time schedules and too frequent sampling shall be avoided.

Conclusion: an ON LINE microbiological control system can be constructed to collect time series of microbe density data and give early warnings of hazards whenever the target organisms and their critical growth sites are mapped (HACCP)  and the control method, depending of the specificity of organism(s), is chosen. Time series help to evaluate biocidic treatments, effects of the process conditions (temperature, pH, redox potential and so on), overall contamination of the process etc. and, finally,  threshold levels for the alarms, based on the control experiences, can be set.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Novel method to produce biofuel - by E.coli!

As an (originally) environmental microbiologist, I was very pleased when reading the news, delivered by BBC web site, tonight:

A novel biotech method, based on the growth of coliform bacteria, has recently been tested in laboratory conditions by British scientists. This sounds very promising because the simple nutritive requirements and rapid growth of coliforms. E.coli has the world record of growth rates: it can duplicate in 20 minutes when growth environment is optimal. In addition, coliforms can use sugars, derived from mechanical pulp manufacture - suits also to Finland?

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

From paper industry to mining environment

After my career as paper industry microbiologist (1983 - 2009) I have totally reoriented towards environmental problems of mining industry today.

 Reasons for the closure of the paper microbiology development is the depression of this industrial area. No interest in rapid control methods can be found anymore. Positive attitudes still exist (esp. in Finnish innovation organisations) but "money rules" today. No economical support can be found for e.g. luminometric ON LINE methods from paper companies - and it is really a pity.

Short summary of my career in paper microbiology:

I actually started as environmental microbiologist in HU / Dep.of Microbiology, Helsinki, Viikki. I recall shortly the most interesting projects in the beginning of 80's: cyanobacteria, nitrogen fixation, Bacillus-based insecticides, soil microbiology, coliform research..and then I found myself in the projects of prof. Seppo Niemelä. We were able to perform species analyses of different waste water types and found the best indicators of paper industry effluents which were led to Lake Lohjanjärvi. Growth temperature ranges of most important indicator coliforms were also determined by Tmax method. Several scientific analyses were written and I started my doctoral thesis about environmental and clinical species of a certain coliform. - Thank you, Leena, for your help to detect plasmid-bound antibiotic resistances!

A big chance of my career happened in Autumn 1986 when I was accepted to work as the research microbiologist for Enso-Gutzeit Ltd. I had to leave my doctoral work (all documents still in my book shelf!) but I got a job where I learned everything about paper industry microbiology - from raw materials up to waste waters! There were countless persons who helped me to understand the world of paper making - I will thank them all  because the name list would be too long to be published.

After some reorientation in my private life I headed towards Jyväskylä in 2006 and had the great chance to work with late prof. Christian Oker-Blom (R.I.P., Chrisse!). We constructed several project proposals for paper industry with several Finnish and foreign companies but it seemed that there were no money left for this kind of projects in paper companies anymore. Some interesting projects of air quality etc. then follows (thank you, Markus!) in the last years of 00's.

The last post of mine was the key account director of Samplion Ltd. No matter my title, I was able to perform real laboratory evaluations in JAMK laboratory and field tests in paper and paper additive companies - interesting!

In addition to the posts mentioned, I have worked as a part-time teacher for professional teaching organisations (especially TL, AEL, POHTO), companies and universities of applied sciences (especially Imatra, Jyväskylä, Kotka).

Today, as formally retired, I am more and more activated in environmental microbiology (greetings to Helge and BIOTECHTOUCH!). Coming back to those years in Viikki - the circle is now closed. I wonder if I have to reconstruct my blog but let it wait...I'll try to inform my readers in Twitter and Facebook about my reorientation. Please follow the key word "Talvivaara"...!