Wind-Actuated Vibrating Electrochem (WAVE) Digester

EPA Grant Number: SU836778
Title: Wind-Actuated Vibrating Electrochem (WAVE) Digester
Investigators: Pisciotta, John M
Institution: West Chester University of Pennsylvania
EPA Project Officer: Sergeant, Anne
Phase: I
Project Period: September 1, 2016 through August 31, 2017
Project Amount: $14,490
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2016) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Sustainability , P3 Awards , P3 Challenge Area - Water

Description:

Provide a low-cost organic waste digester that couples improved household-to-village-scale waste and wastewater treatment to the economical storage of renewable energy; the digester’s improved mixing capability boosts its efficacy.

Objective:

The objective of the WAVE Digester Project is to provide a low-cost organic waste digester that couples improved wastewater treatment with the economical storage of renewable energy.

Approach:

This invention consists of a sealable digester tank equipped with internal electrodes, an anode and a cathode, electrically-connected to a renewable energy converter, such as a photovoltaic (PV) panel. Microorganisms naturally present in the input waste including exoelectrogenic bacteria and methanogenic archaea facilitate bioelectrochemical organic waste breakdown. Electrogenic bacteria donate waste-derived electrons into the circuit via the anode producing an electrical current. Voltage is then boosted via renewable energy converters enabling efficient CO2 reduction to methane biogas at the cathode. Thus, waste CO2 is captured to serve as a renewable energy storage molecule / energy carrier. This strategy can reduce health risks posed by heavy, lead acid batteries which are associated with toxic heavy metal water contamination. One novel aspect of the WAVE Digester is that it is adapted to harness the power of surface winds.

Expected Results:

We expect wind-mixed digesters will demonstrate higher biogas productivity, electrical current and complete waste digestion faster than unmixed reactors. We further expect that WAVE digesters can serve to significantly reduce fecal coliform bacteria levels in wastewater. WAVE digesters, if successful, could enhance economic productivity in developing nations by providing stores of clean energy to do work, cook food and provide warmth and light. WAVE digesters provide a sealed container for wastewater. This is important because open wastewater is a breeding ground for insect vectors like mosquitoes that spread diseases including malaria. This technology reduces the need for toxic lead acid batteries, helping to protect environmental water quality. By combating infection on multiple fronts while enabling toxin-free storage of clean energy the West Chester University WAVE digester can elegantly address disparate societal, economic and environmental needs.

Supplemental Keywords:

Biogas, Biocathode, Renewable Energy, Environmental Health,