In general terms, the research group of Prof. Ilse Smets is centered around monitoring, modeling, optimization and control of biological wastewater treatment systems (i.e., classic activated sludge systems as well as membrane bioreactors). While previous research predominantly concentrated on aerobic reactor processes, the current interest extends to anaerobic processes as well.
Ongoing research focuses on developing monitoring tools that reflect the activated sludge activity and performance well without being too complex. Examples are cofactor F420 and F430 analysis to quantify the methanogenic activity in anaerobic digestion processes, hydrolytic activity (i.e., protease and lipase activity) monitoring and in depth microscopic analysis of the activated sludge’s morphology. The latter forms the foundation of the research on the bioflocculation dynamics of activated sludge for which a top-down (starting from the actual activated sludge flocs) and a bottom-up (starting from pure activated sludge species) is pursued.