Yaniv Scherson (Postdoc, CEE) and Prof. Craig Criddle (CEE)
Nitrogen pollution from wastewater and agricultural runoff is a major environmental threat causing dead zones in oceans and other bodies of water. State and federal agencies are enacting stricter rules on nitrogen emissions, but conventional removal is energy intensive and expensive. Yaniv Scherson developed a low-cost process that converts nitrogen waste from wastewater into nitrous oxide gas, which the sewage plant can then use to boost power output from its generators.
With the support of TomKat's Innovation Transfer Program, Scherson went from a one-liter-a-day system in his Stanford laboratory to a pilot system processing 1,000 liters daily at the Delta Diablo water treatment facility. The pilot system also turned out to have the added benefit of removing phosphorous from wastewater as well. The project proved that the concept can work at large scale for a fraction of the capital cost and a considerably smaller operating cost. The results are featured in a Bay Area report sponsored by the U.S. EPA as a nitrogen solution for utilities, and Delta Diablo plans to operate the pilot independently.
Recovering energy from nitrogen in wastewater October 2013