Project #4900

Unlocking the Potential of Mixed-Microbial Fermentation for Enhancing Carbonaceous Resource Recovery from Organic "Wastes"

Principal Investigator
Research Manager
Mr. Ashwin Dhanasekar
Columbia University
Energy Optimization
Microbes & Pathogens
Resource Recovery
Anaerobic Digestion
Biological Nutrient Removal (BNR)


Recovery of commodity materials from wastewater is a key function of water resource recovery facilities (WRRFs) of the future, within which wastewater treatment will be coupled with recovery of products that have secondary market value. Carbon recovery in the form of biosolids and methane in biogas has been practiced for many years at WRRFs, but other carbon recovery opportunities exist. Short and medium chain fatty acids (scVFA, mcVFA) are particularly flexible feedstocks that can be used towards the production of high-value commodities and chemicals. This project’s overarching goal was to open the ‘black-box’ of mixed-culture anaerobic fermentation using advanced molecular and chemical characterization techniques, as well as to evaluate the strategies for extracting VFA from fermentation mixtures.

This project provides insights into metabolic complexity associated with anaerobic fermentation of high strength wastes, practical operational strategies for elutriation, future research needed to advance high value carbon recovery, and more. Published in 2022.

Originally funded as WERF project WRF1722