Antifoams playing key role in success of bioreactor

When customer Urbaser Balfour Beatty (UBB (Essex) Construction JV) began work on a new on-site bioreactor it was, of course, banking on the chemical process of transforming organic waste and accelerating its decomposition and stabilisation. But while these chemical reactions are what drives a bioreactor, some chemical processes may need to be curbed in order for it to carry on functioning correctly.  

UBB has been in consultation with Airedale Chemical to navigate the range of antifoams on the market and expore the benefits of using them in the new bioreactor at its site in Basildon, Essex.

Antifoams are needed when liquids are moved in production and filling processes as the change in pressure can result in excess air being created in a solution. This can work its way to the surface creating bubbles and foam, and can have an adverse effect on how equipment operates.

The antifoam works by reducing the surface tension to make a clear boundary between the liquid and trapped air. Contaminants collect on the surface of the liquid, making it easier to separate from the solution. The role of antifoams is to prevent the formation of foam, or alternatively it can be added to a situation where foam is already present.

Antifoams will be utilised at the Basildon site via the suppression system around the top of its new bioreactor; antifoams will then be injected using a nozzle system. Leacheate, from biohalls feeds the bacteria from the bioreactor, and due to the aerobic process, can create foam.

Silvia Potts, laboratory technician at UBB, explains: “Due to leacheate constantly feeding into the bioreactor, and the bio treatment processes carried out inside, it is inevitable that foam will be created.

“If antifoams are not used as part of the system, the foam will keep on being produced and the bioreactor will become ineffective due to the amount of foam falling out of the top. Eventually it will stop working altogether as the foam would cause an unmanageable, dirty mess which would keep foaming up and overun the site if left untreated.

“The most important reason we need antifoams for our project is not simply to save money, or reduce man hours, it is fundamental to keeping the bioreactor, and our site, working properly”.

Chris Chadwick, sales director at Airedale Chemical, added: “Antifoams are an essential part of many manufacturing and industrial processes and there are several different types of antifoams on the market, each with their own specific application.

“By liaising directly with clients, we can help determine which product best suits their needs. In this case we have advised on a non-silicone based antifoam which would not block the fine membranes in the filtration equipment, as oppose to a silicone based antifoam which is insoluble in water and could obstruct the system.

“However, UBB is already familiar with the applications and advantages of antifoams as it already uses them as part of its scrubber systems at Basildon where antifoams are in the air pollution control device to clean emissions before leaving site.”

Silvia also commented: “One of the benefits of using Airedale Chemicals is, as well as their specialist advice, that they will go the extra mile to ensure we have what we need by making themselves available to deliver the necessary resources over weekends and outside of normal working hours.

“We also source several of our other chemical supplies from Airedale and we are pleased with the service and value we receive”.

For more information on all our Antifoam products call our sales team on 01535 637876 or email


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