Advanced Bioreactor

EPA Grant Number: SU836138
Title: Advanced Bioreactor
Investigators: Skardon, John
Institution: California State University - Monterey Bay
EPA Project Officer: Page, Angela
Phase: I
Project Period: September 1, 2015 through August 31, 2016
Project Amount: $15,000
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2015) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: P3 Awards , Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , Sustainability , P3 Challenge Area - Water


Nutrient runoff such as nitrates from agricultural areas are a major threat to human and ecosystem health. To date, there is no cost effect method to eliminate nitrate surface or groundwater that can be used at the farm or local level. We propose to develop a modular and portable bioreactor that combines a synthetic support matrix, supplemental carbon injection systems, with pH and temperature control, to reduce incoming nitrate contaminated water to less that 10 ppm in the effluent. We are targeting a hydraulic residence time (HRT) of less than 4 hours. The operating cost of the proposed system per treated gallon will be less than the cost of current ion exchange systems. The lower HRT will enable a much smaller footprint. Denitrifying bacteria for the reactor is sourced by our students from local sloughs and watersheds and isolated using existing microbiology practices. Data and performance modeling for the design comes from ongoing funded research in our six operating multi-channel bioreactors. This is a low power system using only electricity produced locally to drive the denitrification process.


Our approach uses a “whole cell” approach to bioremediation. However, we are leveraging very high specific surface area synthetic matrices to increase the amount of bacteria per unit volume. By carefully matching the supplemental carbon source and injection to the bacteria, we hope to optimize the denitrification process and avoid the generation of greenhouse gases.

Expected Results:

The lowest cost and smallest footprint system for removing nitrate in ground and surface water.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 3 publications for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

denitrification, anaerobic

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report