For some years a Queensland water engineering company has been manufacturing high quality commercial aeration machines used by industry and local government for the aeration of wastewater and stabilisation ponds.

In 2014, an engineer was experimenting with the water jets on the latest model aerator trying different ways to improve performance when he found the machine was producing an amount of microbubbles. Since it was known that microbubbles are a very useful technology for water and wastewater treatment, the race was on to perfect a delivery mechanism able to produce vast amounts of these tiny bubbles with as little energy input as possible.

“Microbubbles are incredibly small bubbles measuring 0.05 mm or less in size. To understand just how small this is, they are smaller than the diameter of a human hair and appear like a cloud of white smoke in water,” said Geoff Hill from Essential Water and Energy Services, a Queensland-based company, marketing an expanding line-up of leading water and energy products and services that offer economic solutions for a wide range of projects.

“Standard or macro bubbles rise to the top of the water and burst upon reaching the surface then disappear. However, microbubbles have very low buoyancies, enabling them to remain for longer periods of time in the water. When microbubbles collapse they do so within the water column releasing ions and free radicals.

“Not all microbubbles collapse, many shrink down to form even much smaller, negatively charged nanobubbles, or ultra-fine bubbles. These extremely tiny, invisible bubbles remain in the water for long periods of time, often longer than a month before dissolving due to pressure and temperature. Nanobubbles travel throughout the water in all directions by Brownian motion and it is these that build up a store of oxygen and other gases,” he said.


Hydroponic laboratory trials conducted at Meiji University in Japan showed substantial increases in root and leaf growth of spinach when microbubbles and nanobubbles were added to a culture solution. This natural, sustainable approach has already been put to use by some Japanese hydroponic farmers and it is proving to be an effective means of increasing profits.

Lead researcher at Meiji University is Professor Masahiko Tamaki (pictured left) from the School of Agricultural Science. “Just what uses might these tiny bubbles have in the agriculture industry? Let’s start with the example of hydroponic spinach growing: When comparing the use of standard bubbles with microbubbles/nanobubbles to deliver oxygen in a culture solution, we know that the latter approach achieves 10 to 15 per cent improvements in root and leaf growth,” Professor Tamaki said.

“Depending on the type of plant, increased growth rates can also be achieved, which reduces harvesting time. Although groundwater is commonly utilised as agricultural use water, groundwater oxygen concentrations are so low they approach zero per cent in certain locations. If this type of oxygen poor water is used in hydroponic growing, oxygen will not be sufficiently absorbed through the plants’ roots, resulting in lowered intake of nutrients and water and poor plant growth. “Microbubbles and nanobubbles can be effortlessly dissolved in groundwater to supply oxygen and remedy this problem. This approach has already been put to use by some hydroponic farmers, and it is proving to be an effective means of increasing profits,” he said.

“Collaborating with and providing data to microbubble and nanobubble generator equipment manufacturers to create equipment optimised for the agricultural industry Successful plant disease control is also a problem faced by many in hydroponics. If a pathogen enters the culture solution, this infectious agent can spread throughout the entire system and cause widespread damage to crops. Even in more enclosed, more germ-free plant factory environments, this danger cannot be completely eliminated,” Professor Tamaki said.

“Because the use of agrochemicals in hydroponics is prohibited, culture tanks, hydroponic apparatuses, panels and beds used for planting seedings, and other such equipment must be sterilised each time using boiled water, chlorinebased materials, or other such means.”

Unlike standard bubbles, microbubbles have very low buoyancies, enabling them to remain for longer periods of time in the water.

LOCAL APPLICATION In 2016, one of the new generation of aeration machines, fitted with perfected microbubble generators, was installed in wastewater stabilisation ponds for a NSW council. After it had been operating for a few weeks it was observed that carp and some other small native fish species in the ponds were growing considerably faster, and grasses and plants along the edges of the ponds that were close enough to benefit from the microbubble and nanobubble rich water were greener and healthier looking and growing more quickly. “Now in its third year of R &D and continuing to develop a range of microbubble delivery systems, the Queensland company has become recognised as being among the world’s leaders in designing and manufacturing systems able to successfully harness this emerging technology for different applications and industries. Due to the unique properties that differentiate these bubbles from standard varieties, they have been receiving increased attention from a wide variety of fields, such as wastewater treatment, agriculture, hydroponics, aquaculture, environmental remediation, etc.,” Geoff Hill said.

“Now that we have the generators and delivery systems for these tiny bubbles, it would seem to be worthwhile including this exciting technology in your hydroponic endeavours.” 


For more information contact:

Geoff Hill, Essential Water and Energy Services

477 Boundary Street, Spring Hill QLD 4000

Mobile: 0499 994 651 | Ph: 07 3085 7458

E: geoff@essential-wes.com.au | Web: www.essential-wes.com.au

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