Eco-Energy Demonstration Model: Anaerobic Digestion, Algae and Energy Prosperity

EPA Grant Number: SU834290
Title: Eco-Energy Demonstration Model: Anaerobic Digestion, Algae and Energy Prosperity
Investigators: Wilkie, Ann C.
Current Investigators: Wilkie, Ann C. , Alldridge, Jonathan S , Edmundson, Scott J , Granovskaya, Yelena , Graunke, Ryan E , Norrell, Taylor S , Society, Bio-Energy and Sustainable Technology
Institution: University of Florida
EPA Project Officer: Nolt-Helms, Cynthia
Phase: I
Project Period: August 15, 2009 through August 14, 2010
Project Amount: $10,000
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2009) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: P3 Awards , Sustainability , Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Challenge Area - Energy , P3 Challenge Area - Water


The purpose of this project is to address the sustainable production of green energy and waste mitigation through the design and construction of a working eco-energy demonstration model based on the integration of anaerobic digestion and photosysthesis.


Eco-Energy is a concept that actively integrates biological systems to create energy in resource-efficient, closed-loop ecologies capable of simultaneously mitigating pollutants and producing energy. Phase 1 of our project delves into the design and basic scientific understanding of the aspects that make our eco-energy system effective. The main components, the methanogenic anaerobic digester and the algal photo-bioreactor, present technical challenges that must be understood for successful technology integration. These inquiries include the varied parameters of both anaerobic and photosynthetic ecologies. Our project will investigate the basic biological structure and function of attached aquatic algal communities and their potential productivity using anaerobic digester effluent as a primary source of mineral nutrients. Our investigation will characterize digester effluent from different feedstocks (e.g. sewage, manures, food wastes) to determine if these reflect a difference in algal growth. Understanding the basic environmental parameters that promote climax communities of algae will allow steady-state productivity and an enhanced degree of culture stability. A further challenge to the utilization of algae as a primary source of energy is the ability to harvest the algae. Current methods in algal culturing are energy intensive, and therefore economically and sustainably prohibitive. Our model, once constructed, will allow our team to investigate methods of passive, low-tech algal harvesting. The entire model will operate on waste nutrients and sunlight, incorporating photovoltaic solar cells to run water pumps.

Expected Results:

Using an integrated system of an anaerobic digester and a photo-bioreactor, nutrient-laden wastewaters will be turned into environmentally benign energy. Our project aims to design a pilot-scale model that integrates these two biological technologies. The model will be used as an interactive and functional sustainability teaching demonstration. Through scientific investigations and demonstration opportunities, this eco-energy model will serve to expand the understanding of ecological characteristics necessary for a sustainable society.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 1 publications for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

alternative energy, renewable energy, waste to energy, biogas, biomethane, animal waste gasification, wastewater treatment, agricultural byproducts, biobased feedstocks, renewable feedstocks, waste to value, sustainable waste management, biodegradation, resource recovery, closed-loop recycling, pollution mitigation, air emissions reduction, conservation, design for the environment, holistic design, model for sustainability, ecological sustainability, carbon sequestration,

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report