Project Partners


Universidad Rey Juan Carlos

Universidad Rey Juan Carlos was created by law (LAW 7/1996, July the 8th) in 1996 with the main objective of offering high quality education accompanied by scientific excellence. URJC fosters participation and close partnership with industrial and economic sectors, in education, research and development. The University also fosters European and international collaborative academic and scientific activities, joining thematic networks and encouraging exchanges and co-operation within international programs. The university has approximately 50,000 students from over 100 countries, in addition to 2,000 staff (academic and administrative personnel). In the last five years, 360 new research projects were granted to URJC (29 projects were supported by European Institutions), totaling €30 million (€10 million from European projects). Moreover, URJC has specialized administrative departments (European Projects Office) that will prove valuable for supporting the management, coordination, and communication activities within DEEP PURPLE.

Researchers at URJC affiliated with the BBI JU program are part of the Chemical and Environmental Engineering Research Group (GIQA, of the Higher School of Experimental Sciences and Technology, established in 1998. The promotion of R&D&i activities in the group is carried out through collaborations with companies and institutions, and participation in national and international calls that allow our researchers to develop their research lines contributing to the generation, expansion and dissemination of knowledge, and the advancement of science and technology. In particular, URJC has a strong background with research areas close linked with the task of the proposal such as: renewable and clean energies; environment, resources and sustainability; green technologies and valorization of wastes. The Group is composed of 128 people: 14 full professors, 24 associate professors, 9 post-doctoral researchers, 56 PhD students and 18 laboratory technicians, as well as a considerable number of undergraduate students who are initiating in active research. GIQA is currently working at 10 research lines and, in the last 5 years, around 250 papers have been published in international scientific journals of highly impact.

The biotechnology laboratory supports the cultivation and characterization of purple phototrophic bacteria (PPB) (membrane photo-bioreactors, continuous and discontinuous photo-fermenters, IR-illuminated temperature-controlled orbital shakers, static stoves and ovens for drying and calcination, VIS-NIR spectrophotometer, VIS-NIR spectroradiometer, light microscope, thermocycler, and laminar flow cabinet). Moreover, it possess different analytical techniques for the determination of carbon, nitrogen, phosphorous and heavy metal species, and polymers like poly-phosphate, glycogen and poly-hydroxy-alcanoates (PHAs) (microwave and thermal digesters, total organic carbon analyzer, UV-VIS spectrophotometer, Total Kjeldalh Nitrogen analyzer, HPLC-IR, HPLC-DAD, GC-TCD, GC-FID, inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectrometry (ICP-OES), selective electrodes for pH, conductivity, temperature, dissolved oxygen). The Laboratory of water characterization (LAGUA; and the collaborative BRUKER-URJC laboratory provide a wide range of analytical techniques with special focus on GC-MS, LC-MS and LC-MS/MS mass spectrometry facilities. Finally, the laboratory of organism’s cultivation (CULTIVE) has two phytotron units, several climatic chambers and a greenhouse to evaluate the potential of the fertilizers.

Role in project

  • Operation of a pilot-scale PPB photobioreactor to be fed with domestic wastewater and the liquid fraction of the hydrolyzed OFMSW.
  • Optimization of downstream processes of PPB biomass to be converted into raw organic fertilizers. Determination of critical control parameters of the process.
  • Optimization of the PPB photobioreactor to accumulate de excess of nutrients in form of PHA, as well as the downstream processes to extract the PHA.
  • Design of a multi-physics mechanistic model, involving biochemical processes, light irradiation and continuous fluid-dynamics to optimize the anaerobic photo-bioreactors operation and set the conditions for further scale-up to demonstrative plant.

URJC will lead the simultaneous treatment of domestic wastewater and the liquid fraction of the hydrolyzed OFMSW at TRL 5-6 with 3 objectives:

  1. complete decontamination of the wastewater by assimilative uptake of C, N, P and other nutrients as K and Mg into a biological, solid biomass, mainly composed by purple phototrophic bacteria (PPB),
  2. analysis of the PHA accumulation by PPB biomass, and
  3. extraction and dewatering of PPB biomass to be converted into raw organic fertilizers.
Pilot-scale plant:

URJC will operate 2 pilot scale anaerobic raceways (0.5 m3 each), which will be illuminated by sun irradiation filtrated with UV/VIS specific absorbent materials. The PPB biomass uptakes both organics and nutrients, and part of these organics are accumulated as PHA. The biomass is separated and recirculated into the system by means of conventional secondary settlement. Critical control parameters to be assayed will be hydraulic and solid retention times (HRT, SRT), which will be varied between 12 and 48 h, and 2 and 8 d, respectively, targeting either the raw organic fertilizers (biomass) or the PHA production. Additionally, the hydraulic circulation rate will be also analyzed to explore its effect on the biomass stratification and IR radiation penetration. At the end of this stage, the technology will achieve TRL 6.

Other tasks involving URJC are:

  • Advising and supervising the operation of the demonstrative plants during the whole life of the project. This includes simulation of the process for optimization, external data analysis and travelling to demo plants for meetings. Additionally, bidirectional data sharing between low and high scales will be assessed for continuous process tuning.
  • Dissemination of project results through scientific journal articles, international conferences, and local divulgative activities, including promotional videos and spreading promotional information over academic and administrative public.