A quadrillion microbes: BWISe research facility to drive wastewater innovation
The BEWISe facility will host global scientists as they seek to move away from existing energy-intensive treatment processes and towards low carbon and low-cost alternatives.
Moving towards low carbon alternatives
Newcastle University and partners from Northumbrian Water Group have opened a new large-scale research facility in Europe to improve how wastewater is treated.
Based at Northumbrian Water's sewage treatment plant in Birtley, UK, the Biological Engineering: Wastewater Innovation at Scale (BEWISe) facility aims to accelerate the uptake of innovations.
The facility will host scientists from around the globe as they seek to move away from existing energy-intensive treatment processes and towards low carbon and low-cost alternatives.
The main focus of the research facility will be to explore how sustainable wastewater treatment can be achieved through low-energy biological treatment technologies using bacteria.
The facility will provide a test environment to run will a quadrillion microbes - around 10,000 times more than what can be used in a standard laboratory.
“Scientists will be able to run more intensive experiments that could not be achieved elsewhere as they seek to speed up innovation.”
Scientists will have access to BEWISe in order to run their experiments to identify how different types and combinations of bacteria behave in a variety of sewage treatment processes.
As a result, scientists will be able to run more intensive experiments that could not be achieved elsewhere, as they seek to speed up innovation.
"Having the BEWISe facility as a hub at our Birtley Treatment Works is a great driving factor for innovation and research,” said Heidi Mottram, chief executive officer at Northumbrian Water Group.
Removing the barriers to innovation
The new BEWISe collaboration hopes to break down the barriers to innovation.
It’s estimated that just under 10 per cent of water technology innovations have a successful application and even then the impact is regularly disappointing, Paul O’Callaghan, founder of BlueTech Research previously said.
New innovations can be hampered by a number of factors, from high costs to a lack of significant research.
As well as sharing the costs of the £1.2 million Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)-funded BEWISe plant, Newcastle University and Northumbrian Water Group have also added an extra £500,000 to the project.
“BWISe has the ability to run with a quadrillion microbes – around 10,000 times more than what can be used in a standard laboratory.”
The BEWISe facility is aiming to speed up innovation in sustainable wastewater treatment by experimenting with low-energy biological treatment technologies and develop low-cost ways to generate energy from waste.
According to Newcastle University the BEWISe facility will be able to deliver:
- The ability to reduce the costs and timescales of designing novel biological treatment processes
- Innovative technologies that harness biology to clean wastewater
- Demonstrations of sustainable approaches to wastewater treatment never tested before
Scientific rigorous and credible
The main appeal of the new research facility is that it can offer access to tests and experimentations that standard laboratories cannot, including:
- Activated sludge
- Trickling filter
- Upflow anaerobic sludge blanket (UASB)
- Microbial electrochemical fuel cell
- Adaptable Polishing Tanks (e.g wetlands)
"The opening of BEWISe enables us to set a new global standard for wastewater research,” said Professor Russell Davenport, principal investigator for BEWISe and professor of engineering for the environment and human health, Newcastle University.
"The new facility allows experimental investigation of water engineering innovations across a range of scales and underpins work that is scientifically rigorous and credible.”
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