Integrated Bioprocess Systems for Low-Cost Environmental Remediation and Sustainable Biofertilizer Production

EPA Grant Number: SU834737
Title: Integrated Bioprocess Systems for Low-Cost Environmental Remediation and Sustainable Biofertilizer Production
Investigators: Curtis, Wayne R , Tuerk, Amalie , Woolston, Benjamin
Institution: Pennsylvania State University
EPA Project Officer: Page, Angela
Phase: I
Project Period: August 15, 2010 through August 14, 2011
Project Amount: $13,704
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2010) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Challenge Area - Materials & Chemicals , P3 Challenge Area - Water , P3 Awards , Sustainability


This project seeks to identify opportunities to integrate biological process steps for organisms being examined individually for their unique capabilities of bioremediation, nitrogen fixation, or biofuel production, in order to minimize the waste generation, energy usage, and costs associated with these processes. The outcome will include an assessment of the most promising process.


Each integration opportunity will utilize the waste stream from one organism/process as the growth substrate/input of another. Three specific systems, each taking advantage of low-cost bioreactors and bioprocess operation, will be considered:

  • Nuclear waste oxidation and sequestration by Geobacter sulfurreducens fed by the organic acids produced by Clostridium phytofermentans fermentation of biomass
  • Degradation of endocrine disruptors in wastewater by immobilized Phanerochaete chrysosporium grown on polysaccharides secreted during growth of Chlorella vulgaris for algae biofuel production
  • Low-cost production of Azotobacter vinelandii for use as a nitrogen-fixing bio-fertilizer from secreted algae carbohydrate, municipal waste water, and Clostridium–produced organic acids

Phase I will follow an instructional course effort to educate students in the complexities of energy-mass inter-conversion for diverse organisms. During Phase I, kinetic data from the literature will be supplemented with experimental measurements in the systems noted above to quantify rates, capacity and production costs. Process models constructed from the bioreactor designs and operational kinetics will facilitate a technical and economic feasibility analysis to identify a specific integrated process to be the basis of a Phase II implementation and commercialization effort.

Expected Results:

Preliminary techno-economic analysis of these processes will be undertaken, utilizing the literature and including key supporting data and proof-of-principle experiments. The emphasis on low-cost bioreactors and operation greatly enhances the economic feasibility and practicality for widespread implementation of these systems, with further potential for implementation and economic growth in underdeveloped regions.

Supplemental Keywords:

Bioremediation of Agricultural Chemicals, Bio-Based Feed Stocks, Green Energy, Waste to Value, Cost Benefit Assessment,

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final