An Innovative Online Monitoring and Control System for Improved Biological Nutrient Removal

EPA Contract Number: 68D00234
Title: An Innovative Online Monitoring and Control System for Improved Biological Nutrient Removal
Investigators: Coleman, Thomas E.
Small Business: dTEC Systems LLC
EPA Contact: Manager, SBIR Program
Phase: I
Project Period: September 1, 2000 through March 1, 2001
Project Amount: $70,000
RFA: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) - Phase I (2000) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Water and Watersheds , SBIR - Water and Wastewater , Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)


The Phase I objective is to develop an innovative online monitoring and process control system that will improve the reliability and performance of biological nutrient removal (BNR) systems, which are designed to achieve low discharge concentrations of phosphorus and/or nitrogen from municipal wastewater treatment plants. The monitoring system will utilize a Raman spectroscopy based on a sensor incorporated into a membrane filter probe assembly to enable real time in situ measurement of nitrate and nitrite in BNR system reactors without the need for reagent additions or complex calibration procedures. The availability of new more powerful laser excitation sources, fiber optic technology, and solid state detectors have revolutionized Raman spectroscopy in recent years creating the potential for measuring specific analytes in complex mixtures under real plant conditions with little or no sample preparation. The specific objectives and activities of this Phase I project include: (1) determination of practical detection limits and the optimal excitation source wavelength for nitrate and nitrite using Raman spectroscopy; (2) determination of the potential for interference from other chemical species commonly found in wastewater systems; (3) development and demonstration of a prototype membrane filter cartridge into which the in situ fiber optic probe would be inserted; and (4) identification of all solid state inexpensive laser sources for development in Phase II of the project.

If the Phase I research is successful, it will show that Raman spectroscopy, coupled with membrane filter technology, can be used for real time measurement of nitrate in BNR treatment processes with resolution to 1 part per million (ppm) or less. It is further anticipated that it will be possible to develop a cost-effective automated process control system, using input data from multiple nitrate/nitrite sensors, which will be widely applicable to a variety of BNR designs and process control strategies. The potential customers for the technology to be developed include the owners and operators of municipal and industrial wastewater treatment facilities. Wastewater plants now face increasingly stringent regulations, are pressured to hold down costs, and are required to improve the treatment performance, particularly in the area of nutrient removal. Improved online monitoring and automation of process controls are critical in meeting these challenges. This represents a significant commercial opportunity for the application of the emerging technologies of Raman spectroscopy and membrane filtration.

Supplemental Keywords:

small business, SBIR, wastewater treatment, engineering, chemistry, EPA., RFA, Scientific Discipline, Waste, Water, Ecosystem Protection/Environmental Exposure & Risk, Chemical Engineering, Municipal, Wastewater, Environmental Chemistry, Monitoring/Modeling, Environmental Monitoring, Environmental Engineering, wastewater treatment, online monitoring, monitoring, biological nutrient removal (BNR), biological nutrient removal (BNR), wastewater treatment plants, spectroscopy, municipal wastewater, phosphorus, nitrogen

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report