Published: 24 January 2018

Turning wastewater into renewable energy

Dr Siddharth Gadkari has won the UKRI 2017 Industrial Innovation Fellowship funded by Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) UK to pursue his research into a method of transforming waste products into electricity, hydrogen and chemicals.

The research, which will run for three and a half years from January 2018, aligns with the UK Industrial Strategy, which highlights ‘clean growth’ as one of the greatest challenges of our time.

Dr Gadkari, a Research Fellow in the Department of Chemical and Process Engineering, will focus on developing mathematical models for microbial electrosynthesis (MES) systems. MES systems are a type of bioelectrochemical system (BES) which make it possible to use the chemical energy from wastewater to generate electricity, hydrogen and valuable chemicals. Dr Gadkari’s project will involve collaboration with Newcastle University and Harbin Institute of Technology, China.

Currently billions of pounds and a significant amount of energy are spent in the UK every year on treating industrial, domestic and municipal wastewater, but this wastewater typically contains organic compounds which can be used as a valuable resource in MES systems.

Renewable energy sources can be used to supply the power which MES systems require to achieve an electrochemical reaction. This therefore offers a novel way to store renewable electrical energy, which is not constantly available due to the nature of solar and wind power, in the chemical bonds of organic compounds.

The mathematical models Dr Gadkari aims to develop will improve engineers’ understanding of the mechanisms of MES systems and how they affect the environment.

Dr Gadkari said: “I am delighted to have been awarded this NERC Innovation Fellowship which will support a very promising area of research. The ability to simultaneously process wastewater and CO2, and produce chemicals which will enable renewable energy, could be an important step towards cleaner energy in the UK. The project will deliver critical data which, complimented by experiments, will help develop the technology towards commercialisation.”

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