Resource recovery from wastewater with Bioelectrochemical Systems

Lead Research Organisation: University of South Wales
Department Name: Faculty of Computing, Eng. and Science

Abstract

Production and recovery of energy and industrial materials from novel biological sources reduces our dependency on the Earth's finite mineral petrochemical resources and helps the UK economy to become a low carbon economy. Recovering energy and valuable resources such as metals from waste materials is an attractive but challenging prospect. The valuable materials are usually present in wastes at very low levels and present as a highly complex mixture. This makes it very difficult to concentrate and purify them in an economically sustainable manner.
In recent years there have been exciting advances in our understanding of ways in which microorganisms can extract the energy locked up in the organic compounds found in wastewater and in the process generate electricity. This is achieved in devices known as microbial fuel cells (MFC). In an MFC microorganisms on the anode oxidize organic compounds and in doing so generate electrons. These electrons are passed into an electrical circuit and transferred to the MFC cathode where they usually react with oxygen to form water, sustaining an electric current in the process. In theory MFC can be configured such that, rather than conversion of oxygen to water at the cathode they could convert metal ions to metals or drive the synthesis of valuable chemicals. It is our aim to develop such systems that use energy harvested from wastewater to recover metals from metal-containing waste streams and for the synthesis of valuable chemicals, ultimately from CO2.
This project will bring together experts from academia and industry to devise ways in which this can be achieved and will form the foundation of a research programme where scientists working on fundamental research and those with the skills to translate laboratory science to industrial processes will work together to develop sustainable processes for the production of valuable resources from waste.

Planned Impact

The main impact of the proposed technology that will be evaluated is the application of bioelectrochemical systems to tackle the burden of waste treatment (nationally and eventually Internationally) and transferring the energy, metals and minerals contained within to produce useful products. The proposed bioelectrochemical system will have wide applications particularly to industries producing wastewater with high organic content. Thus potential non-academic beneficiaries may include the food and drink industry, breweries, agriculture and the paper and pulp industry and also water utilities charged with sustainable treatment of wastewater from a range of sources. The technologies that will be developed in the project will permit them to recover value from their waste products. More immediately the research will have impact on our industrial collaborators who will be involved in developing new materials and processes as a result of their collaboration with the academic researchers in this project ( e.g. Chemviron Carbon, MagnetoChemie, WH Partnership). These and other organizations will be involved from the outset in identifying research needs and planning a project that will meet them. The societal significance of reducing our reliance on fossil fuels and geological resources is immense and this will clearly impact environmental regulators, policy makers and politicians. The accompanying Pathways to Impact document details how we will maximize the chances of realizing these impacts through various activities designed to foster close collaboration an engagement with potential non-academic beneficiaries.

Publications

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Boghani H (2017) Sampled-time control of a microbial fuel cell stack in Journal of Power Sources

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Guwy, A. J. (2015) Biohydrogen and Biorefinary

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Jimenez J (2015) Instrumentation and control of anaerobic digestion processes: a review and some research challenges in Reviews in Environmental Science and Bio/Technology

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Ng K (2016) A multilevel sustainability analysis of zinc recovery from wastes in Resources, Conservation and Recycling

 
Description Copper recovery from distillery effluent was studied in a scalable bioelectrochemical system with approx. 6.8L total volume. Two control strategies based on the control of power with maximum power point tracking (MPPT) and the application of 0.5V using an external power supply were used to investigate the resultant modified electroplating characteristics. The reactor system was constructed from two electrically separated, but hydraulically connected cells, to which the MPPT and 0.5V control strategies were applied. Three experiments were carried out using a relatively high copper concentration i.e. 1000 mg/L followed by a lower concentration i.e. 50mg/L, with operational run times defined to meet the treatment requirements for distillery effluents considered. Real distillery waste was introduced into the cathode to reduce ionic copper concentrations. This waste was then recirculated to the anode as a feed stock after the copper depletion step, in order to test the bioenergy self-sustainability of the system. Approx. 60-95% copper was recovered in the form of deposits depending on starting concentration. However, the recovery was low when the anode was supplied with copper depleted distillery waste. Through process control (MPPT or 0.5V applied voltage) the amount and form of the copper recovered could be manipulated
Exploitation Route We have completed a proof of concept copper recovery process for distillery wastes. This could be developed into a industrial demonstration facility. This is challenging as there is a potential for the legal discharge levels of copper to be increased, thus reducing the requirement for this technology.
Sectors Chemicals,Energy,Environment,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology

 
Description The research into tubular microbial fuel cells as a subset of the bioelectrochemical devices has led to an BBSRC/Innovate UK project led by a technology company WH-Partners who as seeking to develop a biological oxygen demand sensor (BOD) developed at Newcastle University. The NERC collaboration has led to USW involvement in this work, to design and deliver a microbial fuel cell based transducer to be used in the sensor system. This work has now received funding via ToOL TuBES: Toxicity & Organic Load Tracking using BioElectrochemical Systems (BBSRe/ BB/R005613/1) to develop the underpinning technology into a prototype instrument.
First Year Of Impact 2017
Sector Environment,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology
Impact Types Economic

 
Description BBSRC/Innovate UK IB Catalyst, Management and use of biofilms
Amount £9,463 (GBP)
Funding ID BB/P000193/1 
Organisation Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 02/2016 
End 01/2017
 
Description EPSRC Multi-diciplinary Fuels
Amount £376,671 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/N009746/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2016 
End 02/2020
 
Description Hydrogen to Fuel Cells (H2FC SUPERGEN) Flexible Funding Award
Amount £98,221 (GBP)
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 08/2014 
End 07/2016
 
Description Knowlege Economy Skills Scholarships (KESS II)
Amount £67,276 (GBP)
Organisation Bangor University 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2016 
End 09/2019
 
Description Travel grant H. Boghani for AD14 Chile
Amount £1,500 (GBP)
Organisation Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 11/2015 
End 11/2015
 
Description Travel- Four early stage researchers to BBSRC ADNet Early Career Researcher Conference, Warwick
Amount £400 (GBP)
Organisation Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 06/2015 
End 06/2015
 
Description BBSRC/Innovate UK BOD Sensor collaboration 
Organisation Newcastle University
Department School of Civil Engineering and Geosciences
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The project seeks to prototype and commercialize a biological oxygen demand sensor based on microbial fuel cells. We are providing the microbial fuel cell array based on our tubular modular system and will also provide wider design and deployment advice to the project.
Collaborator Contribution Newcastle University are providing the BOD sensor know how, having studied such a device at laboratory scale and conditions. WH-Partnership bring the commercialization route and the design and industrial equipment supplier know how for the integration of the system with the sources of measurand, such as wastewater treatment plants and industrial biotechnology/waste treatment systems.
Impact To date the project kick off meeting has been held and the design of the sensor has begun.
Start Year 2015
 
Description BBSRC/Innovate UK BOD Sensor collaboration 
Organisation WH-Partnership Ltd
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution The project seeks to prototype and commercialize a biological oxygen demand sensor based on microbial fuel cells. We are providing the microbial fuel cell array based on our tubular modular system and will also provide wider design and deployment advice to the project.
Collaborator Contribution Newcastle University are providing the BOD sensor know how, having studied such a device at laboratory scale and conditions. WH-Partnership bring the commercialization route and the design and industrial equipment supplier know how for the integration of the system with the sources of measurand, such as wastewater treatment plants and industrial biotechnology/waste treatment systems.
Impact To date the project kick off meeting has been held and the design of the sensor has begun.
Start Year 2015
 
Description KESS 2 Studentship on Zinc in Steelmaking 
Organisation Tata Steel Europe
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution EU ESF Convergence/WG funding has been made available in the Knowledge Economy Skills Scholarships 2 to support industrially based PhD projects. USW has provided the academic lead, proposing the project and will register the student (in recruitment). The work will in part be conducted at the USW SERC laboratories and the USW will contribute the shortfall on full economic costs.
Collaborator Contribution Tata Steel will host the student at the Port Talbot works for part of their activities and particularly in the earlier stages of the projects, providing the industrial context, access to facilities and data and providing analysis facilities to undertake assays on process stream samples. Tata will also provide direct monetary support and industrial supervision.
Impact Funding has been granted under the KESS 2 scheme.
Start Year 2015
 
Description Visiting Prof. form MASDAR Inst. UAE - Jorge Rodrigues 
Organisation Masdar Institute
Country United Arab Emirates 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Visiting Prof to USW, Jorge Rodriguez has submitted a funding application to the British Council with the support of Prof G C Premier
Collaborator Contribution Negotiations are ongoing for MASDAR to host a PDRA at MASDAR to investigate the integration of two models, one from USW and one from MASDAR, related to bioelectrochemical systems.
Impact British Council Links application on BES submitted.
Start Year 2016
 
Title BIOHYGAS 
Description SERC. (2014) BIOHYGAS; BioHyGas trademark. Filed on 11 February 2014 in classes 1 and 40 for which the application was made, along with the associated description of goods and services. , (12587846, E. C. T. A. N., Ed.), USW Commercial Services Ltd. 
IP Reference  
Protection Copyrighted (e.g. software)
Year Protection Granted 2014
Licensed No
Impact none
 
Description BBSRC ADNet ESR event at University of Warwick in June 2015. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Four PDRAs undertook dissemination to a wider anaerobic digestion audience of ESRs through oral presentations on the subject of bioelectrochemical system research conducted.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Bioelectrochemical Systems Sensing Day: Thursday 26th of January 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Meeting arranged to discuss the future prospects and trajectory of bioelectrochemical sensing devices and to communicate ambitions between academics and particularly with Palintest Ltd - A HALMA COMPANY interested in developing sensor systems.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Contribution to World Renewable Energy Network, ISESCO/WREN INTERNATIONAL SEMINAR IN BRITAIN World Renewable Energy Council/Network (WREN) Seminar No.90, RENEWABLE ENERGY 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The World Renewable Energy Network (http://www.wrenuk.co.uk) arranges dissemination on a wide range of renewable energy topics to a wide international audience in order to increase awareness and build networks. As part of the invited presentations, research findings and perspective are reported and disseminated and networking is an important element. The biomass conversion processes by biological means includes anaerobic bacterial processes such as AD, fermentation and bioelectrochemical systems. Research findings are disseminated.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2009,2010,2011,2012,2013
URL http://www.wrenuk.co.uk/
 
Description EU ISMET 2016 Rome - Bioelectrochemical system control 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Presentation on work related to control of bioelectrochemical systems as part of a specialized bioelectrochmical system/ microbial electrochemical technology meeting arranged by the ISMET organisation.
Boghani, H. C., Michie, I., Dinsdale, R. M., Guwy, A. J., and Premier, G. C. (2016) Control of microbial fuel cell voltage using a gain scheduling control strategy, In 3rd European Meeting of the International Society for Microbial Electrochemistry and Technology EU-ISMET 2016 Rome.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://rotarulab.com/2016/10/eu-ismet/
 
Description EU-ISMET Rome 2016 - VFA sensing 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Presentation on work related to the measurement of VFAs in bioprocesses as part of a specialized bioelectrochmical system/ microbial electrochemical technology meeting arranged by the ISMET organisation.
Kaur, A., Dinsdale, R. M., Guwy, A. J., and Premier, G. C. (2016) Towards Microbial Fuel Cell Based Volatile Fatty Acid by Applying Specific Poised Potentials In 3rd European Meeting of the International Society for Microbial Electrochemistry and Technology EU-ISMET 2016 Rome.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://rotarulab.com/2016/10/eu-ismet/
 
Description Industry Workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact The workshop was directed at identifying the industrial and societal benefit of heavy metal recovery.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Invited presentation to Research Workshop, Department of Chemical Engineering, University of Bath. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Invited workshop to disseminate the work of USW in the field of bioelectrochemical systems. The audience was a mixture of academics and post doctoral researchers and graduate students with research interests beyond the subject matter of the workshop.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description MeteoRR Final Conference, 8th and 9th of May 2018 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact End of project conference to present results
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description NERC RRfW Annual Conference 2016 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Participation in workshop (including CO-CREATION OF A SHARED VISION FOR WASTE AND RESOURCE MANAGEMENT IN THE UK) with industrial participants and presentation of a poster.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Resource Recovery from Waste Conference 2019 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact End of Project Conference to present results of project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Tata Visit, University of South Wales, Treforest. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact A high level delegation from Tata Strip Products, Port Talbot, including Director, Mr Luc Bol; Chief Engineer, Mr Martyn Duggan; Impact Acceleration Manager, Mr Brian Edy; and four other high ranking personel, attended a meeting with academics at USW to assess prospects for increased collaborative interaction on research. Two presentations of relevance to this output were...
Guwy. A. J. (2016) Overview of EERI/SERC, In Tata Visit, University of South Wales, Treforest.
Premier, G. C. (2016) Bioelectrochemical Systems (BES), In Tata Visit, University of South Wales, Treforest.
The presentations were followed by in-depth discussions, during which very positive indications of intent to increase collaborative research were expressed by Tata, and mechanisms were to be explored further.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Up-scaling of Microbial Fuel Cells Using Systems Approaches (invited), WTC EXPO for BioElectroMET and Value from Urine, Leeuwarden 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact This was a 2 day event titled Up-scaling of BES towards application, organized as part of the EU FP7 projects BioElectroMet and ValuefromUrine (http://www.bioelectromet.eu/ and http://www.valuefromurine.eu/), by invitation, delivered by Dr H. Boghani. Included industrial and academic speakers.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description WREC Presentation 2016 - Linking fermentation and bioelectrochemical systems 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Invited presentation at the World Renewable Energy Congress (WREC15) in Jakarta in 2016. Premier, G. C., Boghani, H. C., Fradler, K. R., Jones, R., Massanet-Nicolau, J., Kaur, A., Michie, I., Dinsdale, R. M., and Guwy, A. J. (2016) Bioenergy and resource recovery: Linking fermentation and bioelectrochemical systems, In World Renewable Energy Congress (WREC15), Jakarta, Indonesia.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.wrec2016indonesia.com/
 
Description Workshop: Biorefinery of wastes. Dream or Reality? Waste or Resource?, at University of Santiago de Compostela, Spain. 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Premier, G. C. et al (July 2015) Scale, control and integration of Microbial Bioelectrochemical Systems (BES), In Workshop: Biorefinery of wastes. Dream or Reality? Waste or Resource?, Department of Chemical Engineering , University of Santiago de Compostela, Spain.
The event and interactions led to an invitation to participate in a Marie Curie H2020 application. The other speakers were drawn from significant research groups in related fields across the EU. The significance of the work done on scale-up by University of South Wales was well accepted and understood.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description World Renewable Energy Congress (2014) Kingston, London. 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Oral presentations to international audiences at WREC 2014, including acting as Char of the Biomass and Waste to Energy Theme of the Technical Committee for the conference.

Boghani, H. C., Fradler, K., Michie, I., Dinsdale, R. M., Guwy, A. J., and Premier, G. C. (2014) Enhanced microbial fuel cell performance from hybrid helical anode designed using multiphysics approach In World Renewable Energy Congress, London.

Cosway, C., Michie, I., Amini, N., Dinsdale, R. M., Guwy, A. J., and Premier, G. C. (2014) Development of a novel upflow fluidized particle microbial fuel cell for the treatment of wastewaters, In World Renewable Energy Congress, London.

Fradler, K. R., Boghani, H. C., Michie, I., Dinsdale, R. M., Guwy, A. J., and Premier, G. C. (2014) Continuous Zinc Removal in Three Camber Microbial Fuel Cell, In World Renewable Energy Congress, London.

Premier, G. C., Boghani, H. C., Papaharalabos, G., Ieropoulos, I., Kim, J. R., Greenman, J., Fradler, K. R., Kaur, A., Michie, I., Dinsdale, R. M., and Guwy, A. J. (2014) Control of bioelectrogenesis for improved microbial fuel cells and bioelectrochemical systems, In World Renewable Energy Congress, London.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://wrenuk.co.uk/