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7 Million Euros for an Energy-Producing Wastewater Treatment Plant using the Bio-Electrochemical Fuel Cell (BioBZ)

By January 17, 2020 3   min read  (573 words)

January 17, 2020 |

The Clausthaler BioBZ joint project – awarded the German Sustainability Award in 2018 – will be continued with the “Demo BioBZ” project.

Energy transition in wastewater treatment: By using the bio-electrochemical fuel cell (BioBZ), energy can be obtained from the wastewater of a sewage treatment plant – usually the largest municipal electricity consumer. A team of researchers from Clausthal University of Technology with several partners will further optimize this innovative approach and implement it in Goslar in a demonstration sewage treatment plant designed for 250 residents. The Federal Ministry of Education and Research is making 5.9 million euros available through the Karlsruhe Project Management Agency (PTKA) over the next five years. There are also funds from industry and science. The kick-off meeting for the € 7 million project – currently one of the largest research projects at Clausthal University of Technology – will take place on January 23.

The new joint project is coordinated by Professor Michael Sievers from the CUTEC Clausthal Environmental Technology Research Center. “A technical system, such as the one aimed at in the Demo-BioBZ project for sustainable wastewater treatment with complete carbon and nitrogen elimination, does not yet exist worldwide,” says Professor Sievers. The path to such a novelty is divided into three phases: a two-year (further) development phase, a one-year planning and construction phase of the sewage treatment plant, and a two-year operating phase with process optimization. According to the new high-tech strategy of the federal government, good ideas should be put into practice quickly so that Germany strengthens its position as an economic and exporting nation and a leader in innovation. Implementing the innovations previously developed in BioBZ into wastewater practice would make a contribution, Sievers emphasizes. In addition, the energy transition would be practiced at the municipal level, since wastewater treatment plants could be operated at least in an energy-neutral or even energy-producing manner.

What is the principle behind it? Thanks to the bio-electrochemical fuel cell, the organic pollutants are converted directly into electricity when they are broken down. As an additional effect, the effort for ventilation, which also serves to break down contaminants, is reduced considerably. In addition, less sludge is produced, which would otherwise have to be disposed of at high cost. Within the cells, microorganisms act as biocatalysts that generate electrical energy during the breakdown of pollutants.

However, further innovations in the BioBZ starting approach are required for complete wastewater purification, compliance with all legal limit values ​​and economical use. For example, the system, the materials and components as well as the construction are developed further, the cleaning performance has to be expanded and an automation concept or online control mechanisms have to be developed. “The aim of all innovations is higher performance with lower energy consumption,” says the project coordinator. Some Lower Saxony municipalities are already interested in sustainable

Wastewater treatment with bio-electrochemical fuel cell announced.
In addition to the CUTEC research center at TU Clausthal, seven partner institutions are involved in the ambitious collaborative project: the Institute for Chemical and Electrochemical Process Engineering at TU Clausthal with Professor Ulrich Kunz, the Institute for Ecological and Sustainable Chemistry at TU Braunschweig with Professor Uwe Schröder, the Engler- Bunte Institute at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology with Professor Harald Horn, Eisenhuth GmbH & Co. KG (Osterode am Harz) around Managing Director Dr. Thorsten Hickmann, Common Link AG (Karlsruhe) with Wolfgang Schläfer, Eurawasser Betriebsführungsgesellschaft mbH (Goslar) with Jörg Hinke and Umwelttechnik und Anlagenbau GmbH Plauen with Steffen Lässig and Ron Fischer.

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