Allies from the deep

Estelle Clerc searches remote waters such as the deep ocean for bacteria that can degrade specific pollutants such as microplastics, pharmaceuticals and pesticides.

Chemical waste from industrial processes can pose a threat to biodiversity and people’s health. Yet current methods of dealing with pollution are expensive and sidestep the problem - for example by incinerating the waste - rather than solve it. Estelle Clerc, a postdoctoral researcher at ETH Zurich, is forging a different path with her start-up CellX: she searches remote waters such as the deep ocean for bacteria that can degrade specific pollutants such as microplastics, pharmaceuticals and pesticides. These bacterial strains can be cultivated in large quantities in the lab, the goal being one day to turn them into commercial products that can degrade specific pollutants. Sustainable, efficient and cost-effective, this new technology might also be used in the future to upcycle pollutants and other waste.

Student Project House

This creative thinkspace and makerspace is open to ETH students from any discipline. The support they receive in developing and implementing their own project ideas helps the students learn about the different stages of the innovation process.

This text appeared in the 24/01 issue of the ETH magazine Globe.

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Karin Köchle