Biotech in Sanitation: moving towards Wastewater Biorefineries

02 Apr 2013 Comments 0

I had to submit a project abstract for the very fluid PhD. I like this one.


The image on the right is from an Economist article about the complexities emerging from collaborative consumption, click on the pic to access it (will open in new window).


Project abstract:


Wastewater biorefineries move away from the traditional wastewater treatment objectives. This concept considers not only the efficient product recovery of both the bioproduct and water product, but also needs to take into account the complexities of having many, very different stakeholders engage in what approaches a hyper-networked ecosystem economy.


Wastewater biorefineries rely on the irruption of a set of powerful technologies and dynamic new industries accompanied by a facilitating infrastructure. This project looks at bioprocessing in a non-sterile environment as one such technology-infrastructure, and uses the production of biopolymer from Bacillus-consortia as case study. But the techonology-infrastructure is not sufficient. “The old organizational models cannot cope with or take full advantage of the new potential. The new possibilities and their requirements also unleash a profound transformation in 'the way of doing things' across the whole economy and beyond. Thus each technological revolution inevitably induces a paradigm shift.” (Perez, 2002).


This project also considers how this way of doing things is emerging and what the engineering industry can learn from and contribute to it. “The convergence of social networks, a renewed belief in the importance of community, pressing environmental concerns and cost consciousness are moving us away from top-heavy, centralized and controlled forms of consumerism towards one of sharing, aggregation, openness and cooperation” (Botsman & Rogers, 2010).


Further reading:

Carlota Perez, 2002, Technological revolutions and financial capital: the dynamics of bubbles and golden ages, Cheltenham, UK.

Rachel Botsman and Roo Rogers, 2010, What's mine is yours: the rise of collaborative consumption, Harper Business, New York.


And then the super technical bit if you're into that sort of thing:


This work carries significance in arguing for a different approach to waste, and serves to introduce the discussion on how to use significant infrastructural limitations to the advantage of wastewater biorefineries. Challenges in optimising the system rather than individual unit processes are highlighted, which include the different hegemonies present in the interface between environmental and bioprocess engineering disciplines. This review particularly considers the aspects to consider when reactors are designed as unit processes in a wastewater biorefinery, and contributes to a better understanding of reactor selection in areas where systems are required to meet the needs of biomass retention, processing of large volumes and integrated product recovery.


This project is concerned with proving the technology to produce valuable products from dilute waste streams, and less concerned about the performance and application of the produced material.

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