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Method for Reducing Sludge Wasting and Enhancing Bio-hydrogen Generation from the Activated Sludge Process
Treatment and disposal of bio-hazardous sludge accounts for 50-60% of the operational costs at a wastewater treatment plant. To treat this sludge, it undergoes a process involving thickening, conditioning, and dewatering, followed by transport to a landfill or incinerator. In addition to high costs, landfilling and incineration are detrimental from a sustainability standpoint.


In this patented invention, a closed, anaerobic, completely stirred tank side stream reactor is added after the outlet of the settling tank at the wastewater treatment plant. Solids retention time in the reactor is short (< 4 days), keeping its size and cost down. The acidic and anaerobic environment of the reactor causes biomass to deflocculate and sludge to hydrolyze, ultimately reducing sludge by 60%. The invention also has the added benefit of producing hydrogen and methane fuel. 

Published: 12/15/2017   |   Inventor(s): Chul Park, Dong hyun Chon
Category(s): Clean Energy, Environmental, Engineering, Chemicals
Production of Specialty Chemicals with Carbon Dioxide Serving as the Carbon Source
Concerns of resource supply and climate change motivate the shift away from fuels and chemicals derived from fossil fuels towards domestic, sustainable production. The inventors’ patented technology presents a new way of doing this, using microorganisms that are able to take in CO2, water, and electricity and synthesize carbonaceous fuels and chemicals, akin to a reverse microbial fuel cell.


In “microbial electrosynthesis,” a term coined by the inventors, an anode and cathode are connected to a source of electrical power and separated by a permeable membrane. Electron-accepting microorganisms are coated on a cathode, where they reduce CO2 to multi-carbon products, while water is oxidized to oxygen at the anode. For example, the production of acetate would proceed as follows:


Anode: 4H2O --> 8H+ + 8e- + 2O2

Cathode: 2CO2 + 8H+ + 8e- --> CH3COOH + 2H2O

Overall: 2CO2 + 2H2O --> CH3COOH + 2O2


In addition to acetate, production of ethanol, butanol, propanol, formate, and 2-oxobutyrate have been demonstrated.

Published: 12/15/2017   |   Inventor(s): Kelly Nevin lovley, Derek Lovley
Category(s): Chemicals, Clean Energy, Environmental
Aerobic Microbial Fuel Cell
Microbial fuel cells (MFCs) convert organic matter into electrical energy, and find applications in electricity generation and sensor powering for soil, salt and fresh water, and commercial waste environments. Typically, the anode chamber of the MFC must be kept under anaerobic conditions because of anoxic requirements for the bacteria. This both increases engineering costs and impedes proton transfer from the anode to the cathode.


Dr. Kelly Nevin Lovley and Dr. Derek Lovley patented an aerobic MFC anode electrode, allowing for the aerobic operation of an MFC. In their single-chambered design, an internal reservoir of fuel-bearing liquid is created at the anode. The anode is porous, allowing the fuel (e.g. acetate) to diffuse out and form a thick layer. At the outer layer of biofilm, oxygen will be reduced to water and the acetate fuel will be oxidized to CO2. This outer layer protects the inner layer from rapid oxidation, allowing the bacteria to generate current for weeks at a time.

Published: 12/14/2017   |   Inventor(s): Kelly Nevin lovley, Derek Lovley
Category(s): Biotechnology, Life Sciences, Environmental
Silver Nanoparticles Detection and Analysis in Complex Matrices
Silver nanoparticles (AgNPs) are the most commonly used nanoparticles in many consumer products and related matrices. Given the wide application and formation of AgNPs, the environmental and biological fate and toxicity of the AgNPs needs to investigated comprehensively, including if AgNPs transfer through different trophic levels and impact food chains. This invention was developed by combining hydrophobization-mediated extraction with unique capability of Surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS).
Published: 9/13/2016   |   Inventor(s): Lili He, Baoshan Xing, Huiyuan Guo
Category(s): Devices, Diagnostic technology, Environmental, Healthcare, Engineering, Nanotechnology
Baterial Detection Platform
This invention invention is a bacterial detection platform integrating sensitive surface-enhanced Raman Scattering (SERS) capabilities and advanced mapping technique that generates detailed chemical images based on a sample’s Raman spectrum. The identification is based on the fingerprint of the bacterial SERS spectra.  The quantification of the cells will be based on the mapping technique
Published: 9/13/2016   |   Inventor(s): Lili He
Category(s): Diagnostic technology, Food technology & plant science, Environmental, Healthcare, Nanotechnology
Stable, Biocompatible and “Green” Protein Films for Antifouling, Antimicrobial and Tissue Engineering Applications
This invention provides protein films or coatings for antifouling, antimicrobial and tissue engineering applications, and scalable, environment-friendly methods for fabricating the films. The films are water-stable, biocompatible and resistant to protein and bacterial fouling, and can be made to direct human cell adhesion, alignment and growth. The films can be fabricated on both hard and flexible substrates of any shape, and the fabrication process does not involve the use of environmentally hazardous materials such as organic solvents or chemical crossslinkers. The biodegradability of the films can be tuned to enable controlled release of functional or therapeutic agents.
Published: 6/19/2015   |   Inventor(s): Vincent Rotello, Bradley Duncan, Li-sheng Wang, Eunhee Jeoung, Chandramouleeswaran Subramani, Krishnendu Saha
Category(s): Biotechnology, Environmental, Engineering, Healthcare, Life Sciences
Deoxybenzoin-based Anti-flammable Polyphosphonate and Poly(arylate-phosphonate) Copolymer Compounds
Synthetic polymers are used extensively as plastics, rubbers, foams, textiles, and construction materials; however, the flammability of many polymers is recognized as a safety hazard and an important challenge in polymer research. To reduce polymer flammability, halogenated small molecule flame-retardant additives are commonly incorporated into polymer materials. However, such halogenated additives may compromise polymer properties, and moreover pose environmental problems associated with additive leaching. To overcome these problems, researchers at UMass Amherst have developed halogen-free, inherently flame-retardant polymers. This invention provides deoxybenzoin-based anti-flammable polyphosphonate and poly(acylate-phophonate copolymer compounds with low heat release capacity values and high char yields.
Published: 6/19/2015   |   Inventor(s): Todd Emrick, T. Ranganathan, E. bryan Coughlin, Richard Farris, Joseph Zilberman
Category(s): Chemicals, Environmental, Material science, Physical Science
Anti-flammable Compounds and Adhesive Materials
This invention provides new chemical compositions and methods for the preparation of adhesive materials that have low flammability. The low flammability is due to newly invented organic/polymeric components used in the adhesive formulation, rather than through the addition of a conventional anti-flammable additives such as halogenated organic molecules or phosphorous-containing structures.
Published: 6/17/2015   |   Inventor(s): Todd Emrick, Justin Timmons, Megan Szyndler
Category(s): Chemicals, Environmental, Material science, Physical Science
Production of Hydrogen, Liquid Fuels, and Chemicals from Catalytic Processing of Bio-Oils
Need for Advancements in Bio Oil Technology

Several companies have been formed around the fast pyrolysis technique. Fast pyrolysis is the rapid heating of biomass (up to 9000C) in the absence of oxygen. Process conditions cause biomass to vaporize and then liquefy into bio-oil. Bio-oil is viscous, acidic and thermally unstable. On account of the high oxygen content, it is also low in energy content. These features make it unsuitable for use as a liquid fuel. Upgrading it by removing the oxygen content and by converting some of the high molecular weight compounds is a significant challenge.

Published: 5/29/2015   |   Inventor(s): George Huber, Tushar Vispute, Kamalakanta Routray
Category(s): Environmental, Chemicals
Algal-sludge Granule for Wastewater Treatment and Bioenergy Feedstock Generation
Water and wastewater treatments consume 3-4% of energy, while 60% of energy used at the wastewater treatment plant is dedicated to aeration in the activated sludge process. This novel bio-granule called oxygenic bio-granule, proposes to transform wastewater treatment facilities into water resource recovery facilities. The oxygenic bio-granule results from the conversion of activated sludge under photochemical reactions. It is naturally formed and is composed of algae and bacteria within one granular biomass. The bio-granule is a dense, spherical aggregate of microorganisms that is a self-immobilized biofilm and forms in the absence of solid substratum. The cohabitation of algae and bacteria within the biogranule allows for an efficient symbiotic wastewater treatment process. The bacteria degrade organic matter utilizing O2 that is produced by the algae. In addition, the algae harvest CO2 produced from the organic matter degradation for photosynthesis. The biomass flocculates to be 0.2 to 10mm in size, which allows them to be easily separable from water.
Published: 5/28/2015   |   Inventor(s): Chul Park, Sona Dolan
Category(s): Engineering, Environmental
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