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Section of Environmental Biotechnology and Bioenergy

Porträtbild Hans-Joachmim Nägele

«Biomass, waste and waste water are valuable materials for us. With biotechnology they can be used energetically and materially.»

Dr. Hans-Joachim Nägele, section leader


The Section of Environmental Biotechnology was established in 1994. Our experts from the fields of biotechnology, microbiology, environmental sciences and process engineering are involved in both research and teaching.

Our core competencees include microbiological processes for the recovery and utilisation of biomass, organic waste and wastewater to produce higher quality products. The closing of material cycles and the use of renewable energy are the focus of our work.

The work performed in the Centre includes practice-oriented and applied research at laboratory and pilot scales, technology optimisation and feasibility studies.

The Centre has excellent networks throughout Switzerland and internationally. Furthermore, through our involvement with SCCER Biosweet, we are also a part of the Swiss Competence Center for Energy Research.

Research profile

Biomass and organic waste

In the area of biomass we are involved ...

  1. Substrate pretreatment technologies
  2. Biomass potential surveys
  3. Biomass energy and mass flow analysis
  4. Food Waste: Analysis of food loss and waste along the entire value chain
  5. Hygiene concepts for biogas and composting plants

    publication example

Bioenergy and Biogas

In the area of bioenergy we are involved ...

  1. Increasing methane production using upstream microbiological hydrolysis
  2. Increasing efficiency of anaerobic microbiology in biogas plants
  3. Power-to-Gas (biological methanisation of carbon dioxide and hydrogen)

    publication example (PDF 9,2 MB)

Wastewater and sludge treatment

In the area of wastewater we are involved ...

  1. biological treatment of industrial wastewater containing organic components
  2. microscopic and microbiological characterisation of activated sludge
  3. closing of industrial water cycles
  4. treatment and utilisation of sewage sludge

    publication example(PDF 1,4 MB)

Degradation testing / BMP

We have many years of experience in determining and interpreting the biogas and biomethane potential (BMP) of substrates and substrate mixtures. We ferment a representative sample of the substrate under standardised conditions (so-called BMP tests or fermentation experiments) and measure the amount of methane released. It is also possible to determine the residual gas potential, and thus estimate methane emissions, using this method.

We carry out the BMP tests in our laboratories according to international standards (VDI 4630) using AMPTS (Bioprocess Control).

We determine the aerobic degradability of substances or biodegradable materials (bioplastics) in wastewater, digestate, compost or soil by means of respirometric testing according to EN ISO or OECD 301 standards.

publication example

Exhaust air and exhaust gases

In the area of exhaust air we are involved ...

  1. biodegradation of components in gas and exhaust air flows (e.g. desulphurisation, removal of ammonia)
  2. odour reduction using microbiological degradation processes
  3. Emission reduction for biogas & composting plants

    publication example


Further projects



Associations and organisations

Biofuels Schweiz
The official association of the Swiss biofuel industry defines and publishes standards, guidelines and certification principle.

Biomasse Suisse
This industry association advocates for the sensible use of biomass.

IEA Biogenergie Task 37
The Energy from Biogas international research group focuses on all topics relating to the production of biogas through anaerobic digestion.

Ökostrom Schweiz
The cooperative is the industry association for agricultural biogas plant operators in Switzerland.

The Swiss Water Pollution Control Association advocates for clean, living waters.

Research Networks

The SCCER (Swiss Competence Center for Energy Research) is an inter-university collection of competence centres that are engaged in energy sector projects as part of the federal government's Coordinated Swiss Energy Research action plan.

SCCER Biosweet
The SCCER Biosweet (Biomass for Swiss Energy Future) competence centre is a national network of researchers that initiates interdisciplinary projects in the field of energy production from biomass.

Energy research at ZHAW