ReNUWIt Introduces Engineers and Utility Officials to Its POWER Technology

Achievement date: 

Technology that offers an inexpensive approach for recovering resources from wastewater is being considered by engineers and utility officials after outreach by scientists at National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Engineering Research Center (ERC) for Re-Inventing the Nation's Urban Water Infrastructure, or ReNUWIt, based at Stanford University.


The potential utility implementation of ReNUWit’s algae-based system for waste treatment—Photosynthetically Oxygenated Waste-to‐Energy Recovery (POWER)—reinforces the progress of the technology moving beyond its initial testbed. Results collected over several years indicate that the POWER system can operate with net positive energy yield while recovering 90% of the phosphates and 25% of nitrogen in primary effluent as struvite. By eliminating fecal and total coliform, the POWER system has the potential to minimize final disinfectant demand and reduce disinfection by-product formation.


The POWER system utilizes an extremophilic algal strain, Galdieria sulphuraria, which has unique metabolic versatility to reduce unwanted elements in wastewater, including nutrients and the biochemical oxygen demand—a common measurement of wastewater constituents of wastewater—and nutrients in primary effluent to the mandated discharge standards in a single step. In contrast to the classical activated sludge and nitrification-denitrification processes, the POWER system does not require any oxygen, conserving the energy that is currently used for aeration.

To encourage utility consideration of the new technology, ReNUWit held a technology diffusion colloquium at New Mexico State University. Several other complementary activities also are being pursued to promote technology diffusion. Through a new NSF-funded INTERN proposal, two students from the POWER team completed internships with the Center’s industry partner Molzen-Corbin.