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This project is one of the five winners of the call 2017 «Microbials – Direct Use of Micro-Organisms».
Project partners: EPfFL; Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL)
Project no: GRS-074/17
Amount of funding: CHF 340'000
Duration: 09.2018 - 08.2022
Area of activity:
Microbials, seit 2016
Prof. Dr. Ardemis Boghossian
Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne
Institute of Chemical Sciences and Engineering
EPFL SB ISIC LNB, CH H3 525, Station 6
1015 Lausanne (Schweiz)
- ardemis.boghossian@epfl. ch
Water treatment is a fundamental necessity in establishing a nominal quality of life. Its implementation is the first step in advancing a developing country, and it remains an ongoing area of research and progression in developed countries. Though hazardous water treatment is vital for all humans, it unfortunately remains inaccessible for many communities around the world. Wastewater treatment plants are typically the largest energy consumers in most developed cities, accounting for approximately 30-40% of the city's total energy consumption and costing over 40 billion CHF per year. This taxing energy cost severely limits the integration of water treatment plants in developing communities that lack the resources needed to meet this demand.
One approach to offsetting the energy needed to process wastewater is to extract energy that is stored in the unwanted waste. Microbial fuel cells (MFCs) offer a commercially viable basis for treating waste water while also extracting power from waste material. Here, we propose engineering bacteria that are capable of producing electricity from the organic waste material. We aim to incorporate these bacteria into a MFC that can be used to produce energy from waste water. To achieve this goal, we will apply synthetic biology techniques that will allow us to introduce foreign proteins inside the bacteria and optimize their performance to maximize power generation from industrial waste water.
What is special about the project?
Our aim is to provide wastewater treatment facilities the most cost-effective and energy-efficient method for treating organic waste. In achieving this aim, this work is expected to yield the first demonstration of a working MFC based on bacteria that have been specifically engineered and optimized for this application. This technology benefits from a combination of favorable characteristics that have yet to be explored in the field, and this work is also expected to contribute insight into the engineered mechanism that will allow these bacteria to produce electricity.
The project's success would lead to significant implications for water treatment plants around the world. Scale-up studies have shown that water treatment facilities that use MFC technology to process organic waste can produce enough energy to run the entire treatment process, cutting costs by 30 to 40%, as well as reducing the amount of leftover sludge by as much as 80%. The development of a more efficient technology that can achieve such energy savings across different water sources would greatly expand the implementation of this emerging technology. In addition to the positive effects this energy savings will have on the environment, this advancement will help expand water treatment options available to communities that lack the resources needed to realize alternative energy-intensive approaches that often require high capital and installation costs. Water treatment is among the most basic necessities for maintaining a healthy and high quality life; it is an area of ongoing advancement not only for developing communities, but also well-established cities. Any advancement made towards this end would therefore have a direct impact not only on small communities in need of extra energy, but on every inhabitant.
In a first stage of the project different microbes have been engineered for improved power generation in bioelectrochemical systems. In the next stage of the project, the best-performing engineered microbe will be used in a working MFC device to directly process industrial waste water. Its performance will be benchmarked against existing MFCs used for wastewater treatment.
Persons involved in the project
Last update to this project presentation 06.12.2021