Projects

EPA Center for Reinventing Aging Infrastructure for Nutrient Management (RAINmgt)

The University of South Florida department of Civil and Environmental Engineering in partnership with the University of Texas Resources for the Future, Yale University, University of Florida, University of Maryland, and Corporation to Develop Communities of Tampa have been awarded a competitive grant by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as part of its Science to Achieve Results (STAR) program to establish a Center for Reinventing Aging Infrastructure for Nutrient Management (RAINmgt). As a national research center RAINmgt will tackle a dire issue plaguing our nation’s waterways that is critical to Florida’s and the Nation’s economic and social well being: nutrient inputs such as nitrogen and phosphorus from domestic wastewater and stormwater. The National Academy of Engineering has identified managing the nitrogen cycle and restoring and improving urban infrastructure as two of their Grand Challenges. Read more...

Isolated Cultivation of Algal Resource Utilizing Sewage (ICARUS) for Advancing Research and Education on Membrane Biotechnology for Wastewater BioRecycling

Concerns over climate change and depleting fossil fuels necessitate the development and implementation of reliable forms of renewable energy. Microalgae-derived biofuel has the potential to significantly offset petroleum while sequestering carbon dioxide. However, for algae biofuel to be both cost-effective and sustainable, it must be grown on cheap, readily available and sustainable sources of water and nutrients. Sewage, which is abundant in society, can serve as the critical feedstock to make algae biofuel sustainable and feasible on a large scale. However, cultivating algae directly on sewage is challenging due to turbidity, undesirable chemical species, bacterial contamination and zooplankton grazing. A method to cultivate algae in isolation while still benefiting from water and nutrients in sewage is needed. The aim of the project is to reconcile and sustainably integrate the disparate objectives of algae biofuel production and wastewater treatment, by developing a process termed Isolated Cultivation of Algal Resource Utilizing Sewage (ICARUS). A tuned dialysis membrane enables the selective passive transport of desirable chemical constituents, while keeping algal cells separate from bacteria, macromolecules and other macro-constituents in sewage. ICARUS builds on the knowledge base derived from other industries utilizing dialysis (e.g., medicine). Efficient biomass production and harvesting are two major challenges to current full-scale algae biofuel production. ICARUS aims to address both concerns by using a passive membrane system, which reduces the energy demand of the process, while still achieving high algal cell density and facilitated harvesting. Project investigators will study algae-sewage dynamics and explore the potential for a scaled-up passive algae membrane batch bioreactor. Read more...

NEWgeneratorfor recovery of nutrients, energy and water from human wastes

The NEWgenerator is a compact and robust resource recovery machine that is paired with pit latrines, septic tanks, fecal sludge pits and self-standing toilets to treat, recycle and harvest embedded nutrients, energy and water in human wastes. It is intended for “wet pits” from communities that utilize water for washing or flushing, which renders the fecal sludge too wet for combustion processes such as pyrolysis for biochar. The NEWgenerator is a hybrid anaerobic membrane bioreactor (AnMBR) machine which is packaged in a small-footprint modular housing for off-grid deployment. Unlike its more common aerobic (activated sludge) MBR counterpart, the AnMBR does not require aeration (less energy to operate), produces 90% less microbial biomass (less handling) and recovers (rather than remove) nutrients such as NPK. Key processes of the NEWgenerator include: high-rate anaerobic digestion for rapid waste solids disintegration and high-level pathogen destruction (e.g., against Giardia and Ascaris), membrane ultrafiltration (sub-micron) of reactor solids and colloids to liberate pathogen-safe clean water and nutrients, permeate (clean water) collection and storage, biogas collection and electricity generation, and associated ruggedized sensors, data loggers and micro-controllers. Read more...

Partners for International Research and Education (PIRE)

Integrated water and energy systems are fundamental to social, economic, and environmental well-being and prosperity. The increasing difficulty of managing water and energy resources is manifested in several grand challenges identified by the National Academy of Engineering and various global action plans that seek to ensure environmental sustainability and develop global partnerships. Unfortunately, the failure to integrate water and energy concerns with appropriate cultural models of local knowledge, institutions, and resources limits on-the-ground effectiveness and positive environmental impact.

The goal of this National Science Foundation, Partners for International Research and Education (PIRE) grant is to initiate a cultural shift in our individual and university research and education programs toward developing international research competence and building capacity through global partnerships. Our proposed framework for sustainable water-energy systems integrates adapting engineering systems to environmental and cultural changes associated with growth in human populations, urbanization, and resource consumption. We also focus on the interstices of geographical context, cultural analysis, and scale. Our overarching research question is: can effective, geographically-appropriate, and culturally relevant engineered systems be established that utilize wastewater as a resource for recovery of energy, water, and nutrients? Read more...