Converging Laboratory Science to Real-World Applications: A Novel Modeling Approach in Water Resource Recovery

Water resource recovery facilities (WRRFs) consume over 30 terawatt-hours per year of electricity and are the 4th leading cause of natural waterway impairment in the US, indicating that improvements in treatment efficiency and efficacy are beneficial to energy and water security in the US. Aerobic granular sludge (AGS) is a novel biological WRRF process that uses up to 60% less energy than conventional processes while reducing discharges of impairment-causing nutrients to receiving waters. AGS has not been successfully deployed in full-scale WRRFs without extraneous mechanical devices that complicate the treatment process, possibly because of a fundamental disconnect between laboratory and real-world conditions for cultivation. This work aims to bridge the gap between our understanding of laboratory and full-scale AGS cultivation using a novel integrated modeling approach that includes mechanistic studies of laboratory and full-scale physical and biochemical conditions. This approach will elucidate some of the underlying biochemical and physical factors that influence the formation of granules and provide a path to developing new design strategies for full-scale AGS cultivation, which could save US utilities as much as $1.7 billion annually while reducing the industry's carbon footprint.