Development of Photo-Bioelectrochemical Systems for Wastewater Treatment

EPA Grant Number: SU835306
Title: Development of Photo-Bioelectrochemical Systems for Wastewater Treatment
Investigators: He, Zhen
Current Investigators: He, Zhen , Brastad, Kristen , Ge, Zheng , Jacobson, Kyle , Xiao, Li
Institution: University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee
EPA Project Officer: Hahn, Intaek
Phase: I
Project Period: August 15, 2012 through August 14, 2013
Project Amount: $15,000
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2012) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Challenge Area - Energy , P3 Challenge Area - Water , P3 Awards , Sustainability


This project aims to further research an innovative wastewater treatment system with significant bioenergy production through understanding the involved microbial community and developing a large-scale system. By synergistically linking microbial fuel cells (MFCs) to algal bioreactors, an integrated photo-bioelectrochemical (IPB) system for complete treatment of wastewater and bioenergy production is created.


Sustainable wastewater treatment should significantly clean polluted water (people) and minimize energy consumption of the treatment process (prosperity), as well as reduce the carbon footprint due to energy use (planet). Through linking an MFC to an algal bioreactor, the two treatment processes are cooperatively connected for the same purpose of treating wastewater, with two different bioenergy products: bioelectricity from the MFCs, and biomass (for biofuels production) from an algal bioreactor. The P3 team will establish an IPB system consisting of multiple MFC/Algal reactors, examine its performance with actual wastewater, and analyze microbial communities involved in bioenergy production.

Expected Results:

The research plan for the Phase I will focus on analysis of the microbial community and system development. Microorganisms are key players in the proposed IPB system, and multiple groups of microbes are expected in both MFCs and algal reactors with syntrophic or competitive relationships. Identifying any microbial competition occurs in the algal reactor and understanding how it is affected by the MFC activities will be accomplished using molecular techniques. This sustainable water project furthers the EPA’s water pollution goals (CWA Section 104).

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report