Yuemei Lin dedicated her career on research on EPS and was involved with Kaumera from the start.
Fascinated by EPS
During my masters, I researched the composition of the sludge pellet. I tried all kinds of ways to break it up and realized that there could be a polymer that holds the structure together. I started to investigate this further and further and managed to extract the EPS from the pellet. Gradually I started to focus more and more on this material. I then started doing all kinds of analyses to know what it is.
I did my PhD in China and read everything I could find about EPS. I started to focus on that completely. Based on literature reviews, I started researching whether you could get the polymers out by dissolving the sludge pellet. This was in 2006. After my PhD, I worked in Israel on other research. I wanted to continue the research on granular sludge, but I could not get material. In 2008, I got the opportunity to go to the IWA in Vienna. There I made a presentation on Kaumera, which was then called Alginate Like Exopolymer. Mark van Loosdrecht was also there and he was very interested. He gave a keynote speech himself about the process of granular sludge. And at the end of it made the call that if anyone was interested in granular sludge they should especially come and see him. I did and he promised to send me material. I was so happy about that, it was only a small amount, but it meant a lot to me. I was able to continue my research and kept Mark and others at TU Delft informed of my findings. Eventually Mark helped me apply for a Marie Curie postdoctoral fellowship and that's how I was able to come to Delft.
It was a long road, but when you want something really badly, it comes your way.
Once in Delft, I had more than enough material to study. I always used alginate as a control material, but I started to see more and more clearly that the material in the granular sludge was different. I then also started experimenting with a few applications, such as germination, paper coating and fire resistance. I do that together with people from my network around the world. It's so nice to see that many people are really interested in Kaumera. The Netherlands is a very nice country to work in. People are curious and put energy into innovation. If there is a great opportunity, they organize the possibilities to explore it. I love working on this project. With the Kaumera Market Hub and all the different working groups now working together, so much has already been accomplished. It's sometimes small steps, but that's how you get to beautiful developments. That takes perseverance and I find it here.
Kaumera becomes part of our daily lives
People have to get to know the material and the possibilities. We have to inform people. And we have to put a lot of capacity into research so that we can develop quickly. The more we research now, the more we learn and find out. If we have good results, we can also involve the industry and end users and together come up with end products and applications for Kaumera. That collaboration is incredibly important. We know the properties of Kaumera better and better and we need to know what the end user needs.