The US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) has awarded research by the Flinders School of the Environment a top 10 spot in its ranking of 75 entries in the Nutrient Recycling Challenge.
Flinders environmental health honours graduate Jordan Phasey attended a forum for the top researchers in Washington DC, and also received an award at a reception at the White House.
The USEPA, with sponsorship from American primary industry, runs the international competition to identify promising technologies that can recycle nutrients from livestock waste and create valuable by-products
Mr Phasey, who works as a water quality expert for the Power and Water Corporation in the Northern Territory, completed an honours project on improving the process of removing algae from treated wastewater.
A research concept by Mr Phasey, written with Professor Howard Fallowfield and Belgian researcher Dr Dries Van Damme entitled Nutrient Recycling by Lime Treatment and Precipitation of Inorganic Salts, was submitted to the Challenge.
Professor Fallowfield said that after wastewater has been treated using algae, the algal biomass, present in the water as a suspended solids, needs to be retrieved in a way that is economical and energetically balanced.
“Jordan looked at novel ways to achieve chemical flocculation – getting the algae to clump together and drop out of the water,” Professor Fallowfield said.
He said that a relatively cheap and simple method of flocculation using slaked lime and magnesium chloride was successfully tested at the University’s trial wastewater pond at Kingston-on-Murray.
When harnessed to the University’s soon to be constructed, integrated experimental system of anaerobic and aerobic, algal treatment of modified pig slurry, the new flocculation method will enable harvesting of the algae and recovery of valuable nitrogen and phosphorus.
“You end up with a nitrogen and phosphorus-rich material that can be used as compost or fertiliser, or to generate methane energy,” Professor Fallowfield said.
He said the placing was not only a boost for the University’s international research standing in the field, but also created valuable opportunities for networking.
“The exciting thing is being exposed to other research from around the world, which gives you the opportunity to collaborate, to pick and mix with the winning technologies to get a better outcome.”