CEE Department Begins Research Collaboration with European Institutions

Researchers from Villanova’s College of Engineering are teaming up and engaging in staff exchanges with colleagues at the Middle East Technical University in Turkey and the Universität Stuttgart in Germany. The purpose of this joint research is to investigate the applicability of a method known as struvite precipitation technology (SPT) in removing and recovering nutrients from different anaerobic digestion process (ADP) residues, such as waste-activated sludge and poultry manure.

The two-year project, titled “Nutrient Removal and Value-Added Product Formation from Waste via Struvite Precipitation,” is being funded by a $47,700 grant from an arm of the Seventh Framework Programme, the main financial tool through which the European Union supports research and development activities.

The research is important for several reasons. First, optimizing SPT within an anaerobic digester will improve the performance of the ADP—the most commonly used method of disposing of agro-industrial wastes—by reducing the nitrogen and phosphorus loads discharged into natural aquatic environments. Second, nutrient recovery from sludge and other organic solid wastes in the form of the phosphate-containing mineral struvite will stimulate the production of a valuable blend of bio-solids and struvite, which can be used as a fertilizer. This benefit for the agricultural industry is critical, as the world’s supply of phosphorous rock reserves—which are mainly exploited for fertilizer production—is limited.

Led by Dr. Metin Duran, Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, the Villanova team includes doctoral student Y. Dilsad Yilmazel and visiting researcher Dr. Sibel Uludag-Demirer. For its part of the research, the Villanova cohort will (a) investigate separate and coupled struvite precipitation in a pilot-scale anaerobic digester; (b) determine the characteristics of the mixed anaerobic culture by molecular techniques; and (c) investigate the land applicability of the anaerobic sludge.