Thursday, February 16, 2017

Eco-Friendly Concrete Created

Date: February 13, 2017
Source: Rutgers University
Summary: In the future, wide-ranging composite materials are expected to be stronger, lighter, cheaper and greener for our planet, thanks to a new invention. Nine years ago, an American researcher invented an energy-efficient technology that harnesses largely low-temperature, water-based reactions.

In the future, wide-ranging composite materials are expected to be stronger, lighter, cheaper and greener for our planet, thanks to an invention by Rutgers' Richard E. Riman.

Nine years ago, Riman, a distinguished professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering in the School of Engineering, invented an energy-efficient technology that harnesses largely low-temperature, water-based reactions. As a result, he and his team can make things in water that previously were made at temperatures well above those required to thermally decompose plastics.

So far, the revolutionary technology has been used to make more than 30 different materials, including concrete that stores carbon dioxide, the prime greenhouse gas linked to climate change. Other materials include multiple families of composites that incorporate a wide range of metals, polymers and ceramics whose behavior can be processed to resemble wood, bone, seashells and even steel.

A promising option is creating materials for lightweight automobiles, said Riman, who holds dozens of patents and was recently named a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors. The materials could be used for engine, interior and exterior applications. Other materials could perform advanced electronic, optical and magnetic functions that replace mechanical ones.

"Ultimately, what we'd like to be able to do is create a 'Materials Valley' here, where this technology can start one company after another, small, medium and large businesses," Riman said. "It's a foundational or platform technology for solidifying materials that contain ceramics, among other things. They can be pure ceramics, ceramics and metals, ceramics and polymers -- a really wide range of composites."

Riman, who has taught for 30 years in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, focuses on making ceramic materials under sustainable conditions. That means low energy with a low carbon dioxide footprint.

His patented technology creates bonds between materials at low temperatures. It's called reactive hydrothermal liquid-phase densification (rHLPD), also known as low-temperature solidification. And it's been used to make a wide range of ceramic composite materials at Rutgers, according to an article published last summer in the Journal of the American Ceramic Society.

"Typically, we don't go any higher than 240 degrees centigrade (464 degrees Fahrenheit) to make the composite materials," Riman said. "A lot of these processes are done even at room temperature."

Riman, who earned a bachelor's degree in ceramic engineering at Rutgers and a doctorate in materials science and engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, invented the technology after studying how engineers densified Alaskan fields of snow and ice to create airplane landing strips.

"I looked at how shellfish make ceramics at low-temperature, like carbonate crystals, and then looked at what people can do with water to make landing strips in Alaska and I said we should be able to do this with ceramics, but use a low-temperature chemical process that involves water," he said.

Riman came up with the idea decades ago but didn't launch the technology until climate change became a bigger issue. "When it became important to investors to see green technology developed to address carbon emissions in the world, I decided it was time to take this technology commercial," he said.

So he founded Solidia Technologies Inc. in Piscataway, New Jersey, in 2008. It's a startup company marketing improved, eco-friendly cement and concrete for construction and infrastructure. Concrete is a $1 trillion market, Riman noted.

"The first thing we did was show that we could make a material that costs the same as conventional Portland cement," he said. "We developed processing technology that allows you to drop the technology right into the conventional world of concrete and cement without having to make major capital expenditures typically encountered when a technology is disruptive to the marketplace. We plan to do the same thing in the advanced materials business."

Solidia Concrete products have superior strength and durability. They, combined with Solidia Cement, can reduce the carbon footprint of cement and concrete by up to 70 percent and can save as much as 528.3 billion gallons a year, according to Solidia Technologies.

The company's concrete-based products include roofing tiles, cinder blocks and hollow core building slabs. The company approaches concrete product manufacturers to see if they're interested in licensing its products.

"When you can develop technologies that are safe and easy to use, it's a game changer -- and that's just one of the many areas that we're interested in pursuing," Riman said.

His second investor-funded start-up company is RRTC Inc., which is developing advanced composite materials for myriad uses. They include electronic, optical, magnetic, biomedical, biotechnology, pharmaceutical, agricultural, electrochemical, energy storage, energy generation, aerospace, automotive, body and vehicle armor, textile, and abrasive and cutting applications.

Story Source: Rutgers University. "Eco-friendly concrete created." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 13 February 2017.

Original written by Todd B. Bates.

Journal Reference:

Cekdar Vakifahmetoglu, Jean Francois Anger, Vahit Atakan, Sean Quinn, Surojit Gupta, Qinghua Li, Ling Tang, Richard E. Riman. Reactive Hydrothermal Liquid-Phase Densification (rHLPD) of Ceramics - A Study of the BaTiO3[TiO2] Composite System. Journal of the American Ceramic Society, 2016; 99 (12): 3893 DOI: 10.1111/jace.14468

Friday, January 27, 2017

Researchers Discover Greenhouse Bypass for Nitrogen

Finding May Offer Farmers a Way to Reduce Harmful Emissions from Fertilized Soil

Date: January 18, 2017
Source: Virginia Institute of Marine Science
Summary: Production of a potent greenhouse gas can be bypassed as soil nitrogen breaks down into unreactive atmospheric N2, an international team of researchers has discovered.


Associate professor BK Song of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science collects water samples for analysis of nitrogen and microbes.
Credit: © D. Malmquist/VIMS.

Those concerned with water quality are familiar with nitrogen as a major pollutant whose excess runoff into coastal waters can lead to algal blooms and low-oxygen dead zones. Perhaps less familiar is the significant role that a form of nitrogen gas plays in greenhouse warming and the destruction of Earth's ozone layer.

Now, an international group of scientists including Dr. B.K. Song of William & Mary's Virginia Institute of Marine Science have discovered that production of this potent greenhouse gas -- known as N2O or nitrous oxide -- can be bypassed as complex nitrogen compounds in soil, water, and fertilizers break down into the unreactive nitrogen gas (N2) that makes up most of our atmosphere.

Their discovery, published in a recent edition of Scientific Reports, reveals an entirely new pathway in the global nitrogen cycle and could lead to new ways for farmers and others to reduce their emissions of harmful gases. The study's lead author is Rebecca Phillips of New Zealand's Landcare Research Institute, along with Landcare colleagues Andrew McMillan, Gwen Grelet, Bevan Weir, and Palmada Thilak; as well as Craig Tobias of the University of Connecticut.

Agriculture contributes more nitrous oxide to the atmosphere than any other human activity -- primarily through nitrogen fertilization. This greenhouse gas is 300 times more effective at trapping heat than carbon dioxide and 10 times more effective than methane. Nitrous oxide also moves into the stratosphere and destroys ozone.

Current wisdom holds that nitrous oxide is inevitably produced when soil nitrogen -- including fertilizer components such as ammonia, ammonium, and urea -- breaks down. It's also thought this breakdown process requires the action of microbes, and can only occur in the absence of oxygen.

The current research contradicts each of these long-held ideas.

"Our findings question the assumption that nitrous oxide is an intermediate required for formation of nitrogen gas [N2]," says Phillips. "They also throw doubt on whether microbial production of nitrous oxide must take place in the absence of oxygen."

"We now have a pathway that doesn't require microbes," adds Song. "The process of denitrification can happen abiotically, without the need for bacteria or fungi."

The team's discovery could lead to practical applications for decreasing the impacts of excess nitrogen in the environment, a topic they focused on while presenting their findings during a recent meeting in Washington D.C. sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Integrated Water Quality Program.

"It might give us a way to engineer the system to reduce levels of fixed nitrogen," says Song. "By changing the types and ratios of nitrogen compounds in fertilizer, you might have a better way to reduce excess nitrogen, and to mitigate eutrophication or nutrient enrichment in nearby waters."

Phillips adds, "Further research could inform farmers of how to cultivate soil organic matter useful for nitrogen management. Organic forms of soil nitrogen, such as waste products from plants and fungi, could help convert excess inorganic nitrogen -- which would otherwise be leached into water or emitted as nitrous oxide -- into a form that isn't harmful to the environment."

However, the scientists say more research is needed to test exactly which forms of organic nitrogen are most effective. The team is now developing proposals for further funding that will allow them to investigate on-farm applications for transforming excess nitrogen from soil and water into unreactive atmospheric N2 gas without producing N2O. This may allow scientists to develop options to manage the fate of agricultural nitrogen while avoiding greenhouse-gas emissions.

Story Source:

Virginia Institute of Marine Science. "Researchers discover greenhouse bypass for nitrogen: Finding may offer farmers a way to reduce harmful emissions from fertilized soil." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 January 2017. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/01/170118163725.htm

Materials provided by Virginia Institute of Marine Science. Original written by David Malmquist.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Wastewater Treatment Upgrades Result in Major Reduction of Intersex Fish

Date: January 10, 2017
Source: University of Waterloo
Summary: Upgrades to a wastewater treatment plant along Ontario's Grand River, led to a 70 per cent drop of fish that have both male and female characteristics within one year and a full recovery of the fish population within three years, according to researchers.


PhD candidate Patricija Marjan and Professor Mark Servos collect rainbow darter fish on the Grand River in Ontario.
Credit: University of Waterloo


Upgrades to a wastewater treatment plant along Ontario's Grand River led to a 70 per cent drop in fish that have both male and female characteristics within one year and a full recovery of the fish population within three years, according to researchers at the University of Waterloo.

The 10-year study, published in Environmental Science and Technology found that the microorganisms used to remove ammonia in the wastewater treatment process also reduced the levels of endocrine disrupters in the water, which caused the intersex occurrences in fish to dramatically decline.

"Having long-term data of the fish population, before and after the wastewater treatment upgrades makes this a truly unique study," said Mark Servos, Canada Research Chair in Water Quality Protection in Waterloo's Department of Biology. "The changes to Kitchener's wastewater treatment system have had a much larger positive impact then we had anticipated."

In 2007, Servos started tracking the number of intersex male rainbow darter fish in the Grand River. Intersex fish are a result of exposure to natural and synthetic hormones in the water, which cause male fish to grow eggs in their testes. At one point Servos noted the rate of intersex changes in the Grand River was one of the highest in the world.

In 2012, the Region of Waterloo upgraded the Kitchener Wastewater Treatment Plant and changed the aeration tank to reduce toxic ammonia. Within one year the proportion of intersex males dropped from 100 per cent in some areas to 29 per cent. By the end of three years, the numbers dropped below the upstream levels of less than 10 per cent.

"Rainbow darters are the Grand River's canary in the coal mine," said Servos, also a member of the Water Institute at Waterloo. "They're extremely sensitive to the concentration of estrogens and other hormone disrupters in the water. Still, we didn't expect them to recover so quickly."

Endocrine disruption in water systems is a worldwide phenomenon. Estrogen in birth control pills and other chemicals that mimic natural hormones are known to impact fish health in trace amounts as low as one part per trillion, far below what conventional wastewater treatment can typically remove.

"In Europe, water treatment engineers have been turning to extremely expensive tertiary treatments to meet regulatory standards," said Servos. "Kitchener's example shows what can be done with currently available technology."

The Grand River watershed in southern Ontario, is the largest watershed that drains into Lake Erie. The area has a growing population of nearly one million people.

Story Source:
University of Waterloo. "Wastewater treatment upgrades result in major reduction of intersex fish." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 January 2017. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/01/170110151418.htm.

Journal Reference:
Keegan A Hicks, Meghan LM Fuzzen, Emily K. McCann, Maricor J Arlos, Leslie M. Bragg, Sonya Kleywegt, Gerald R Tetreault, Mark E McMaster, Mark R. Servos. Reduction of intersex in a wild fish population in response to major municipal wastewater treatment plant upgrades. Environmental Science & Technology, 2016; DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.6b05370

Friday, December 9, 2016

Bacterial Mechanism Converts Nitrogen to Greenhouse Gas

Author: Blaine Friedlander
Source: Cornell Chronicle

Cornell researchers have discovered a biological mechanism that helps convert nitrogen-based fertilizer into nitrous oxide, an ozone-depleting greenhouse gas. The paper was published online Nov. 17 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“The first key to plugging a leak is finding the leak,” said Kyle Lancaster, assistant professor of chemistry and chemical biology, and senior author on the research. “We now know the key to the leak and what’s leading to it. Nitrous oxide is becoming quite significant in the atmosphere, as there has been a 120 percent increase of nitrous oxide in our atmosphere since pre-industrial times.”

Lancaster, along with postdoctoral researcher Jonathan D. Caranto and chemistry doctoral candidate Avery C. Vilbert, showed that an enzyme made by the ammonia oxidizing bacterium Nitrosomonas europaea, cytochrome P460, produces nitrous oxide after the organism turns ammonia into an intermediate metabolite called hydroxylamine.

N. europaea and similar “ammonia-oxidizing bacteria” use hydroxylamine as their fuel source, but too much hydroxylamine can be harmful – and the resulting production of nitrous oxide is a chemical coping strategy.

Lancaster and his colleagues hypothesize that when ammonia-oxidizing bacteria are exposed to high levels of nitrogen compounds, such as in crop fields or wastewater treatment plants, then nitrous oxide production via cytochrome P460 will ramp up.

In the atmosphere, greenhouse gases are a soup of many species, and Lancaster explained that nitrous oxide has 300 times the potency of carbon dioxide. “That’s a staggering number,” he said. “Nitrous oxide is a really nasty agent to be releasing on a global scale.”

Lancaster added that nitrous oxide is photochemically reactive and can form free radicals – ozone-depleting agents – which aggravates the issue of blanketing Earth’s atmosphere with more gas and raising the globe’s temperature. “In addition to its role as a greenhouse gas cloak, it’s removing our protective shield,” Lancaster said.

The United States is among the world leaders in importing nitrogen fertilizer, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations noted that the world’s nitrogen fertilizer demand was projected to be 116 million tons for this past agricultural season.

“For the world, I realize that we are trying to feed more people and that means more fertilizer – and that means more nitrous oxide,” said Lancaster, who noted that about 30 percent of nitrous oxide emissions come from agriculture and its accompanying land use.

To reduce the negative impact of nitrogen, farmers already use nitrification inhibitors.

Said Lancaster: “While it will be challenging to develop ways to stop this process, now we have pinpointed one biochemical step leading to nitrous oxide production. Future work may lead to inhibitors, molecules that can deactivate or neutralize this bacterial enzyme. Alternatively, we may just use this new information to develop better strategies for nitrogen management.”

The Department of Energy Office of Science and the National Institutes of Health supported the research.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Fuel From Sewage is the Future -- And It's Closer Than You Think

Technology Converts Human Waste into Bio-Based Fuel

Date: November 2, 2016
Source: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Summary: It may sound like science fiction, but wastewater treatment plants across the United States may one day turn ordinary sewage into biocrude oil, thanks to new research. The technology, hydrothermal liquefaction, mimics the geological conditions Earth uses to create crude oil, using high pressure and temperature to achieve in minutes something that takes Mother Nature millions of years.



Biocrude oil, produced from wastewater treatment plant sludge, looks and performs virtually like fossil petroleum.
Credit: Courtesy of WE&RF


It may sound like science fiction, but wastewater treatment plants across the United States may one day turn ordinary sewage into biocrude oil, thanks to new research at the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

The technology, hydrothermal liquefaction, mimics the geological conditions Earth uses to create crude oil, using high pressure and temperature to achieve in minutes something that takes Mother Nature millions of years. The resulting material is similar to petroleum pumped out of the ground, with a small amount of water and oxygen mixed in. This biocrude can then be refined using conventional petroleum refining operations.

Wastewater treatment plants across the U.S. treat approximately 34 billion gallons of sewage every day. That amount could produce the equivalent of up to approximately 30 million barrels of oil per year. PNNL estimates that a single person could generate two to three gallons of biocrude per year.

Sewage, or more specifically sewage sludge, has long been viewed as a poor ingredient for producing biofuel because it's too wet. The approach being studied by PNNL eliminates the need for drying required in a majority of current thermal technologies which historically has made wastewater to fuel conversion too energy intensive and expensive. HTL may also be used to make fuel from other types of wet organic feedstock, such as agricultural waste.

Using hydrothermal liquefaction, organic matter such as human waste can be broken down to simpler chemical compounds. The material is pressurized to 3,000 pounds per square inch -- nearly one hundred times that of a car tire. Pressurized sludge then goes into a reactor system operating at about 660 degrees Fahrenheit. The heat and pressure cause the cells of the waste material to break down into different fractions -- biocrude and an aqueous liquid phase.

"There is plenty of carbon in municipal waste water sludge and interestingly, there are also fats," said Corinne Drennan, who is responsible for bioenergy technologies research at PNNL. "The fats or lipids appear to facilitate the conversion of other materials in the wastewater such as toilet paper, keep the sludge moving through the reactor, and produce a very high quality biocrude that, when refined, yields fuels such as gasoline, diesel and jet fuels."

In addition to producing useful fuel, HTL could give local governments significant cost savings by virtually eliminating the need for sewage residuals processing, transport and disposal.

"The best thing about this process is how simple it is," said Drennan. "The reactor is literally a hot, pressurized tube. We've really accelerated hydrothermal conversion technology over the last six years to create a continuous, and scalable process which allows the use of wet wastes like sewage sludge."

An independent assessment for the Water Environment & Reuse Foundation calls HTL a highly disruptive technology that has potential for treating wastewater solids. WE&RF investigators noted the process has high carbon conversion efficiency with nearly 60 percent of available carbon in primary sludge becoming bio-crude. The report calls for further demonstration, which may soon be in the works.

PNNL has licensed its HTL technology to Utah-based Genifuel Corporation, which is now working with Metro Vancouver, a partnership of 23 local authorities in British Columbia, Canada, to build a demonstration plant.

"Metro Vancouver hopes to be the first wastewater treatment utility in North America to host hydrothermal liquefaction at one of its treatment plants," said Darrell Mussatto, chair of Metro Vancouver's Utilities Committee. "The pilot project will cost between $8 to $9 million (Canadian) with Metro Vancouver providing nearly one-half of the cost directly and the remaining balance subject to external funding."

Once funding is in place, Metro Vancouver plans to move to the design phase in 2017, followed by equipment fabrication, with start-up occurring in 2018.

"If this emerging technology is a success, a future production facility could lead the way for Metro Vancouver's wastewater operation to meet its sustainability objectives of zero net energy, zero odours and zero residuals," Mussatto added.

In addition to the biocrude, the liquid phase can be treated with a catalyst to create other fuels and chemical products. A small amount of solid material is also generated, which contains important nutrients. For example, early efforts have demonstrated the ability to recover phosphorus, which can replace phosphorus ore used in fertilizer production.

Story Source:

Materials provided by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. "Fuel from sewage is the future -- and it's closer than you think: Technology converts human waste into bio-based fuel." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 2 November 2016. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/11/161102134504.htm

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Fracking Wastewater is Mostly Brines, Not Human-Made Fracking Fluids

Date: October 17, 2016
Source: Duke University
Summary: Human-made chemical-laden fracking fluids make up less than 8 percent of wastewater being produced by fracked wells; more than 92% of it is naturally occurring brines, which carry their own risks but may have beneficial re-uses, say investigators.

Naturally occurring brines, not human-made fracking fluids, account for most of the wastewater coming from hydraulically fractured unconventional oil and gas wells, a new Duke University study finds.

"Much of the public fear about fracking has centered on the chemical-laden fracking fluids -- which are injected into wells at the start of production -- and the potential harm they could cause if they spill or are disposed of improperly into the environment," said Avner Vengosh, professor of geochemistry and water quality at Duke's Nicholas School of the Environment.

"Our new analysis, however, shows that these fluids only account for between 4 and 8 percent of wastewater being generated over the productive lifetime of fracked wells in the major U.S. unconventional oil and gas basins," Vengosh said. "Most of the fracking fluids injected into these wells do not return to the surface; they are retained in the shale deep underground.

"This means that the probability of having environmental impacts from the human-made chemicals in fracking fluids is low, unless a direct spill of the chemicals occurs before the actual fracking," he said.

More than 92 percent of the flowback and produced water -- or wastewater -- coming from the wells is derived from naturally occurring brines that are extracted along with the gas and oil.

These brines carry their own risks, Vengosh stressed. They contain varying levels of salts, heavy metals and naturally occurring radioactive elements, and their sheer volume makes disposing of them a challenge.

"But with proper treatment, they potentially could have beneficial reuses," he said, "especially out West, where our study shows most brines being produced by fracked wells are much less saline than those in the East. These Western brines, which are similar in salinity to sea water, could possibly be treated and re-used for agricultural irrigation or other useful purposes, especially in areas where freshwater is scarce and drought is persistent."

The Duke team published its findings Oct. 14 in the peer-reviewed journal Science of the Total Environment.

The researchers used three statistical techniques to quantify the volume of wastewater generated from unconventional oil and gas wells in six basins nationwide: the Bakken formation in North Dakota; the Marcellus formation in Pennsylvania; the Barnett and Eagle Ford formations in Texas; the Haynesville formation in Arkansas, Louisiana and East Texas; and the Niobrara field in Colorado and Wyoming.

Using multiple statistical techniques "helped us more accurately account for changes in each well's wastewater volume and salinity over time, and provide a more complete overview of the differences from region to region," said Andrew J. Kondash, a doctoral student in Vengosh's lab at Duke's Nicholas School, who led the study.

"This makes our findings much more useful, not just for scientists but for industry and regulatory agencies as well," he said.

Among other findings, the new study shows that the median volume of wastewater produced by an unconventional oil or gas well ranges from 1.7 to 14.3 million liters per year over the first five to 10 years of production. The volume of produced water coming from these wells declines over time, while its salinity increases.

"The salt levels rise much faster than the volume declines, resulting in a high volume of saline wastewater during the first six months of production," Vengosh said. After that, the volume of wastewater produced by a well typically drops, along with its hydrocarbon output.

Elizabeth Albright, assistant professor of the practice of environmental science and policy methods at the Nicholas School, co-authored the study with Kondash and Vengosh.

Story Source:

Materials provided by Duke University. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Duke University. "Fracking wastewater is mostly brines, not human-made fracking fluids." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 October 2016. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/10/161017150835.htm

Friday, October 14, 2016

Brewery Wastewater Transformed into Energy Storage

Date: October 7, 2016
Source: University of Colorado at Boulder
Summary: Engineers have developed an innovative bio-manufacturing process that uses a biological organism cultivated in brewery wastewater to create the carbon-based materials needed to make energy storage cells. This unique pairing of breweries and batteries could set up a win-win opportunity by reducing expensive wastewater treatment costs for beer makers while providing manufacturers with a more cost-effective means of creating renewable, naturally-derived fuel cell technologies.

CU Boulder engineers have developed an innovative bio-manufacturing process that uses a biological organism cultivated in brewery wastewater to create the carbon-based materials needed to make energy storage cells.

This unique pairing of breweries and batteries could set up a win-win opportunity by reducing expensive wastewater treatment costs for beer makers while providing manufacturers with a more cost-effective means of creating renewable, naturally-derived fuel cell technologies.

"Breweries use about seven barrels of water for every barrel of beer produced," said Tyler Huggins, a graduate student in CU Boulder's Department of Civil, Environmental and Architectural Engineering and lead author of the new study. "And they can't just dump it into the sewer because it requires extra filtration."

The process of converting biological materials, or biomass, such as timber into carbon-based battery electrodes is currently used in some energy industry sectors. But, naturally-occurring biomass is inherently limited by its short supply, impact during extraction and intrinsic chemical makeup, rendering it expensive and difficult to optimize.

However, the CU Boulder researchers utilize the unsurpassed efficiency of biological systems to produce sophisticated structures and unique chemistries by cultivating a fast-growing fungus, Neurospora crassa, in the sugar-rich wastewater produced by a similarly fast-growing Colorado industry: breweries.

"The wastewater is ideal for our fungus to flourish in, so we are happy to take it," said Huggins.

By cultivating their feedstock in wastewater, the researchers were able to better dictate the fungus's chemical and physical processes from the start. They thereby created one of the most efficient naturally-derived lithium-ion battery electrodes known to date while cleaning the wastewater in the process.

The findings were published recently in the American Chemical Society journal Applied Materials & Interfaces.

If the process were applied on a large scale, breweries could potentially reduce their municipal wastewater costs significantly while manufacturers would gain access to a cost-effective incubating medium for advanced battery technology components.

"The novelty of our process is changing the manufacturing process from top-down to bottom-up," said Zhiyong Jason Ren, an associate professor in CU Boulder's Department of Civil, Environmental and Architectural Engineering and a co-author of the new study. "We're biodesigning the materials right from the start."

Huggins and study co-author Justin Whiteley, also of CU Boulder, have filed a patent on the process and created Emergy, a Boulder-based company aimed at commercializing the technology.

"We see large potential for scaling because there's nothing required in this process that isn't already available," said Huggins.

The researchers have partnered with Avery Brewing in Boulder in order to explore a larger pilot program for the technology. Huggins and Whiteley recently competed in the finals of a U.S. Department of Energy-sponsored startup incubator competition at the Argonne National Laboratory in Chicago, Illinois.

The research was funded by the Office of Naval Research and came as a result of a unique cross-disciplinary collaboration between Ren's lab in CU Boulder's Department of Civil, Environmental and Architectural Engineering; Professor Se-Hee Lee's lab in CU Boulder's Department of Mechanical Engineering; and Justin Biffinger's lab at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C.

"This research speaks to the spirit of entrepreneurship at CU Boulder," said Ren, who plans to continue experimenting with the mechanisms and properties of the fungus growth within the wastewater. "It's great to see students succeeding and creating what has the potential to be a transformative technology. Energy storage represents a big opportunity for the state of Colorado and beyond."

Story Source:
Materials provided by University of Colorado at Boulder. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

University of Colorado at Boulder. "Brewery wastewater transformed into energy storage." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 October 2016. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/10/161007120518.htm.