Proposal Number: 1133793 Sustainable water management is increasingly important for utilities and is driving efforts to reduce energy consumption and residuals production in domestic wastewater (DWW) treatment without compromising effluent quality. Anaerobic membrane bioreactors (AnMBRs) combine anaerobic biological treatment and membrane separation in a single process allowing for methane generation (a renewable energy source), and, relative to conventional DWW treatment, generate a fraction of the residuals and substantial energy savings. Additionally, AnMBRs provide the flexibility of use in centralized or decentralized wastewater treatment due to easy scalability, may be operated at ambient temperatures despite conventional views on anaerobic treatment, and have the potential to meet U.S. EPA?s treatment standards. In short, DWW treatment using AnMBR technology potentially represents a more sustainable DWW treatment paradigm. The proposed research will evaluate AnMBR technology for DWW treatment in labscale systems through completion of three developed objectives with associated tasks: (1) operation of a bench-scale AnMBR for optimization, demonstration of stability, and increased process understanding; (2) development of membrane fouling and treatment models to formulate a unified AnMBR model; and (3) utilization of life cycle assessment, life cycle costing, and multi-criteria decision analysis to make design recommendations regarding AnMBR implementation, such that economic and environmental impacts are minimized, while meeting U.S. EPA?s treatment standards. These objectives will answer the following questions: What are the lower limits for the operational temperature and hydraulic retention time in the AnMBR while maintaining adequate treatment performance? How does the microbial community structure respond to operational changes and what is the associated system stability? Can a model unifying membrane fouling and biological treatment be generated that accurately predicts AnMBR performance across operational changes? Finally, where, when, why, and how can AnMBR technology be implemented using an economically and environmentally responsible approach? This AnMBR technology for DWW treatment will be studied in a way that incorporates both fundamental and broad level research. The PIs of this project are Drs. Raskin, Skerlos, and Love from the University of Michigan, who will combine their extensive experience and complementary strengths from the fields of environmental biotechnology, microbial ecology, mechanical engineering, membrane science, industrial ecology, and water quality process engineering. We will work closely with the Dundee Wastewater Treatment Plant (Dundee, MI) and interact with a range of other utilities and consulting firms.
This research represents a novel strategy with the potential to greatly increase the sustainability of current DWW treatment practices using AnMBR technology. The proposed research represents a comprehensive approach utilizing tools such as microbial analyses, system modeling, and life cycle assessment that will increase our scientific understanding of AnMBR processes while stimulating further research in the field. Collaborations with consultants and utilities will strengthen the likelihood of pilot- and full-scale AnMBR implementation. Additional broader impacts from this work include: (1) integration of research and education through involvement of undergraduate students in research, (2) incorporation of research findings in courses taught by the PIs, (3) technology transfer including the organization of workshops on AnMBR application to DWW treatment at various conferences, and (4) dissemination of research results through conference presentations, peer-reviewed journal articles, and seminar and symposium presentations.