MANHATTAN — The U.S. Department of Energy has announced awards totaling $27.5 million for 16 water infrastructure projects, including one at Kansas State University led by Prathap Parameswaran, associate professor and Fornelli engineering professorship designee in the civil engineering department.

The projects, operating in 13 states, have the potential to reduce carbon emissions and water-treatment costs while improving water quality and equity of distribution nationwide. Each team will work to bring new water and wastewater-treatment technologies from the applied research and development stage to commercial readiness.

Parameswaran’s project, “Integrated Anaerobic Membrane Bioreactor Electro-assisted Fermentation Platform for Total Resource Recovery from Diverse Wastewaters,” has been funded by the DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy for nearly $2 million over the next three years.

Co-principal investigator is Stacy Hutchinson, associate dean of the Office of Research and Graduate Programs in the Carl R. Ice College of Engineering and professor in the Carl and Melinda Helwig Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering at K-State. They will be joined by collaborators from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the University of Pittsburgh, the University of Kansas and CDM Smith, a Boston construction and engineering firm.

The proposed anaerobic membrane bioreactor platform will demonstrate total resource recovery from swine wastewater to produce valuable chemicals, fertilizers and water for reuse. This will be achieved through a combination of anaerobic fermentation with simultaneous separation of the organic acids within the bioreactor and separate sequestration of ammonia-N and phosphate-P through ion exchange and coagulation-flocculation-sedimentation, respectively.

“Side-stream co-fermentation of the bioreactor solids will further enhance energy and chemical recovery from the platform, thereby enabling very low net energy requirements for the anaerobic membrane bioreactor-microbial electrolysis cell platform,” Parameswaran said. “Treated wastewater permeate will be polished in constructed wetlands prior to indirect reuse or discharge.”

The proposed platform is expected to create an entirely new market spectrum within public wastewater utilities, livestock operations and food industries by transforming them into revenue-generating centers or biorefineries, he said.

Products generated will range from organic acids for use as food preservatives and bioplastics manufacturing, ammonia-N as feedstock for the fertilizer industry or direct farm use as slow-release fertilizer, tailored phosphorus fertilizers for appropriate soil types, stabilized biosolids for sustainable land application and finally, water for indirect reuse or discharge.

“This is the type of project that can have a huge impact on operations at the university and in Manhattan,” Hutchinson said. “We worked with the Kansas State University Intellectual Innovation Partners to present letters of collaboration in support of this effort and are very appreciative of the response we received from commercialization partners Intuitech Inc., the Veterinary and Biological Research Center, the city of Manhattan and the K-State Swine Research Unit; as well as stakeholder/end users the Manhattan Brewing Company, One Egg Group LLC, and a trail- and snack-mix distribution center.”

Parameswaran noted the proposed research will be a major advancement in moving K-State toward becoming a research leader in the key strategic area of global food, health and biosecurity through achievement of sustainable and total resource recovery from livestock wastewater for local and global benefits.

“This also aligns well with the College of Engineering goal of creative innovative research platforms for the future prosperity of Kansas and national economic well-being,” he said.

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