Prof. Dr. Bruce Rittmann
Moving from Treatment to Resource
While wastewater treatment has focused on removing water pollutants, many of the pollutants are valuable resources if recovered in a useful form. This presentation focuses on novel means to capture the energy value in “used waters,” including domestic wastewater. New developments in anaerobic membrane biofilm reactors (to generate methane) and microbial electrochemical cells (to generate electrical power or hydrogen gas) now make it feasible to achieve energy-positive treatment of the BOD. After recovery of the energy from used water, most of the N and P are released as inorganic forms that can be recovered for recycle to agriculture. This talk will focus on P recovery, although many of the principle also apply for N. An important take-home lesson is that traditional techniques for “P removal” will not work for P recovery. P-recovery techniques that produce a product useful in agriculture include precipitation as struvite or hydroxyapatite and selective sorption to Fe-based sorbents. This talk will introduce the new technologies and offer insights into their pros and cons.
Dr. Bruce E. Rittmann is the director of the Biodesign Swette Center for Environmental Biotechnology and Regents’ Professor in the School of Sustainable Engineering and Built Environment at Arizona State University. Dr. Rittmann has received many accolades during his career. Highlights are being elected a member of the National Academy of Engineering, a Distinguished Member of the American Society of Civil Engineers, an Honorary Member of the American Academy of Environmental Engineers and Scientists, and 2018 Laureate of the Stockholm Water Prize. Dr. Rittmann also is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences, International Water Association, Water Environment Federation, Association of Environmental Engineering and Science Professors, and the National Academy of Inventors. He also won the Arizona BioIndustry Association’s Award for Research Excellence, the American Society of Civil Engineers’ Simon W. Freese and Huber Awards, the National Water Research Institute’s Clarke Prize for Outstanding Achievement in Water Science and Technology, the Queneau Palladium Medal from the American Association of Engineering Societies, the Perry L. McCarty Founders’ Award from the Association of Environmental Engineering and Science Professors, the Gordon Maskew Fair Award from the American Academy of Environmental Engineers and Scientists, the Rudolf Hering Medal from ASCE, and the inaugural BioCluster Award from the International Water Association and the International Society for Microbial Ecology.
Prior to joining Arizona State University in 2005, Dr. Rittmann was the John Evans Professor of Environmental Engineering at Northwestern University (1992 – 2004) and a professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (1980 – 1992). Dr. Rittmann holds a Ph.D. degree in Environmental Engineering from Stanford University (1979).
An international leader in managing microbial communities, Rittmann is developing new ways to treat water and wastewater, capture renewable resources, and improve human health. For example, he invented the membrane biofilm reactor (MBfR), which uses H2-oxidizing bacteria to remove contaminants such as nitrate, perchlorate, and selenate from water and to recovery valuable metals, such as palladium, rhodium, and selenium. He holds eleven patents on the technology, which is being commercialized for different applications by APTwater and by Precient Technologies. Rittmann also leads teams using two innovative approaches to generate renewable energy: anaerobic microbes that convert biomass to useful energy in methane, hydrogen, or electricity; and photosynthetic bacteria and algae that capture sunlight to produce feedstock for liquid fuels and valuable chemicals.
Dr. Rittmann has published more than 760 peer-reviewed papers, an H-index of 109, and approximately 53,000 citations of his works. His publications span from microbiological principles to field-testing new technologies. His textbook, Environmental Biotechnology: Principles and Applications, 2nd ed, (McGraw-Hill) is used by universities around the world to educate students about the ways in which microorganisms can be used to improve environmental quality.