Modeling Wastewater Sludge Hydrolysis Aided by High Temporal Resolution Measurements Through Microbial Electrochemistry

Project: Research project

Project Details

Description

Project Summary Microorganisms are essential in many environmental engineering and bioenergy processes. Despite our vast knowledge on microbial growth and kinetics, there are various important aspects that are not completely understood or characterized. In this proposal, we address our need to better understand solids hydrolysis by anaerobic microorganisms, focusing on municipal wastewater sludge. The hydrolysis models of activated and primary wastewater sludge are typically oversimplified, mainly due to the lack comprehensive and highly resolved data used to validate such models. This knowledge is crucial to improve the design and optimization of current technologies; while it is essential to understand how new technologies will perform in the wastewater treatment field. We propose the use of a new analytical tool, a microbial electrochemical cell (MXC) using anoderespiring bacteria (ARB), to probe microbial hydrolysis kinetics. An MXC allows us to measure respiration rates of bacteria with high precision and high temporal resolution (<1 second) by measuring the electrical current produced by ARB. Thus, we hypothesize that using an MXC, we can probe and measure solids hydrolysis kinetics and obtain high temporal resolution data that will provide novel insights into the mechanisms underlying these events. This temporal resolution is much higher than the alternative of measuring methane evolution in batch reactors using the most advanced techniques. Therefore, using MXCs allow us to improve our ability to detect transient rate changes in solids hydrolysis. We will combine the MXC measurements with a comprehensive analytical characterization of solid and soluble products of hydrolysis. Expected significance. The studies we propose will allow us to understand the mechanistic bases of microbial hydrolysis kinetics that are of great importance to our field. Based on a comprehensive data collection, we will refine wastewater sludge hydrolysis models for existing and emerging technologies in wastewater treatment. We also propose MXCs as high throughput tools to rapidly select pre-treatment technique(s) that positively impact microbial hydrolysis steps for a given waste. Through these experiments, we will introduce the benefits of measuring microbial metabolic rates of other novel upstream processes through MXCs, sparking interest and imagination in other researchers that can make significant contributions to the field. Broader impacts. As we propose to use MXCs to learn new insights on microbial kinetics, they also become a teaching and learning tool, thus broadening the impacts of our proposed research. We will build a demonstration MXC that will be used as a vital learning instrument in a graduate/undergraduate course in chemical and environmental engineering titled Fuel Cells and Biofuel Cells. We also propose to reach the specialized MXC research community by updating my laboratory website to include protocols, procedures, and designs that are relevant to MXC research. The MXC community can benefit from these postings and a comment section will allow visitors to discuss or suggest modifications to the posted methods. Through this proposal, we plan to continue current efforts to integrate undergraduate and high school research in our laboratory. Undergraduate students will be assigned specific tasks, which will be mentored by the graduate students. Undergraduate students will be recruited through the Fulton Undergraduate Research Initiative (FURI) program at ASU and the Swette Undergraduate Sustainability Internship at the Swette Center for Environmental Biotechnology. We propose to receive funds to host ISMET 2015, an International Conference by the International Society for Microbial Electrochemistry and Technology (ISMET). ISMET 2015 will be hosted by the Swette Center for Environmental Biotechnology at Arizona State University (ASU). Our research team has a long history of research in microbial electrochemistry and technologies, and is composed of over 15 researchers working on this topic. The team is led by Dr. Csar Torres, who will be Conference Chair. The objective of ISMET 2015 is to link together an interdisciplinary group of researchers to discuss recent advancements in microbial electrochemistry and technologies. The presentations of new research will focus on fundamental and applied research, including topics such as Novel microbial pathways in microbial electrochemistry, Wastewater treatment and other bioremediation/bioenergy/ biosensing applications, and Design towards applications and scale up. Our goal is to help disseminate new ideas in the fast-emerging field of microbial electrochemistry. In addition, it is a forum where students and post-docs can meet the leading researchers in the field and where they can present their work during podium or poster presentations. At the same time, our goal is to provide an affordable meeting experience. The fees to attend ISMET 2015 are expected to be below $250 for students and below $350 for faculty and professionals. This award would provide ISMET 2015 with funds for invited speakers (leaders of the ISMET community) as well as student travel awards for students with high-quality research that require support to attend the conference. Intellectual Merit The development of microbial electrochemical technologies can lead to important renewable technologies in the areas of bioenergy and environmental engineering. These technologies can impact the future of our field and lead to a more renewable future. The presenters at ISMET 2015 will bring cutting-edge research ideas. The intellectual exchange of ideas is essential to develop collaborations that can foment the development of such technologies. Broader Impacts ISMET 2015 is an excellent venue to host interdisciplinary talks related to microbial electrochemical technologies. The interaction among researchers from different fields creates a unique environment to foster ideas and future collaborations. At the same time, these ideas can lead to novel technologies that can impact the future infrastructure at the water-energy nexus. ISMET 2015 will also have workshops to educate new researchers in techniques such as molecular biology and mathematical modeling. Through these workshops, we expect to train students that will become leaders in our field. The conference also serves to be a springboard for forging the thought processes of researchers from various backgrounds across the globe to enable the success of microbial electrochemical technologies.
StatusFinished
Effective start/end date9/1/138/31/17

Funding

  • National Science Foundation (NSF): $333,191.00

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