Environmental Technology for Impact | Themes

Alternative fermentations for resource recovery

New fermentation technologies should be developed to be able to transform traditional waste(water) treatment plants into resource recovery plants, and in this manner help to build a circular economy. These fermentation technologies can convert feedstocks such as waste biomass, urine, (in)organic waste(water) streams, (waste) gases or even CO2 from air into useful products such as biopolymers (e.g. bioplastics, proteins and polysaccharides), high grade biomass (worms, algae), liquid fuels, purified methane and platform chemicals such as carboxylic acids. Emerging technologies and better understanding of the working principles of existing technologies are of special interest in this theme.

Keywords: Fermentation, Resource Recovery, Bioprocesses, Carbon cycle


Biocrystallisation processes make use of microbiological conversions that result in the formation of crystalline minerals. Elements of interest are metals and metalloids, but also nutrients like phosphorous and sulfur. Biological reduction of selenate to elemental selenium and sulfide bio-oxidation to sulfur, are examples of processes already applied on industrial scale. The diversity of biocrystallisation concepts reflects the multi-faceted nature of the microorganisms. The possibilities for biocrystallisation concepts to contribute to reuse of water and materials (metals, nutrients), upgrading of materials, protection of water sources, reduction of energy are multitude.

Keywords: Crystallisation, metals, microbiology, nutrients, precipitation, recovery


Bioelectrochemical systems (BESs) use the combination of microorganisms and electrodes to enable different conversions. Examples are the recovery of energy and nutrients, and the removal of pollutants from wastewaters. The field of BESs is an interdisciplinary one, linking process engineering, microbiology, electrochemistry, and other fields. Even though BESs have been under study for almost two decades, still many challenges remain. Topics related to reactor design, conversion rate and efficiency, understanding and controlling electron transfer from microorganisms to electrodes and vice versa, scaling-up, and dealing with ‘real’ wastewaters are the focus of this session.

Keywords: Microbial electrochemical technologies, Bioanode, biocathode, electrochemistry

Closing global nutrient and carbon cycles

The growing world population poses an increasing challenge for food security and the environment. In relation to this, depletion of organic matter in (agricultural) soils is a widespread problem, while management practises for nutrients (NPK), and micronutrients are not sustainable. Our current food system depends on finite resources, like P-rock while at the same time nutrients are lost for agriculture via diffuse emissions. This session focuses on system technology research for the recovery and reuse of organic carbon and nutrients from biomass and other (organic) residues (e.g. sludges, digestate, compost).

Keywords: Organic matter, nutrients, agriculture, organic residues

Environmental solutions in Emerging Economies

Rapid urbanisation, population growth and increasing living standards in emerging economies, requires increasing demand for resources: water, energy, food, materials and accompanied infrastructure for supply, distribution and eventually management of the used streams. These challenges, often impaired with lack of basic infrastructure, climate change and resources scarcity offer opportunities for new sustainable paradigm towards circular urban metabolism and integration with MDGs. More circular resources management involves innovative configurations of technical systems and new governance and planning models. Shifting to sustainable management of interconnected water and resources streams, requires a joint transdisciplinary effort from a wide range of stakeholders and support by various decision models to tailor the solutions to specific local context.

Keywords: (Emerging economies), (water, food, energy nexus), (circular urban metabolism), (resources governance), (sanitation), (MDGs), Decision models

Industrial water management

Industry has a huge demand for fresh water to sustain their processes. However, their supply of fresh water is under pressure due to among others saltwater intrusion, climate change and pollution. A sustainable use of fresh water resources is required to prevent it becoming a limiting factor for the industries and economic development. Therefore, industries start looking into alternative water resources like wastewater and saline water. The use of these alternative water resources requires a different treatment, governance, management and perception than is required for fresh water resources.

Keywords: integrated water resource management; industrial water use; wastewater treatment; alternative water sources; water recycling; industrial ecology

Removal of micropollutants and pathogens in soil and water

A major prerequisite for resource recovery and circular economy practices is the quality of the resources. Low concentrations of contaminants such as micropollutants (e.g. pharmaceuticals, hormones and pesticides) and pathogens (e.g. antibiotic resistant organisms) are found in waste streams, and if untreated, these can accumulate and form a major threat to human and environmental health. This theme thus focuses on physical, chemical, biological or nature-based technologies to improve the quality of recovered resources, reduce operational costs and clear the way to full scale implementation.

Keywords: Micropollutants, pathogens, wastewater, drinking water, biodegradation, sorption

Physical-chemical technologies for water treatment

The transition from a fossil-fuel driven society towards an electrified society, demands for innovative technologies for water treatment and drinking water production. We welcome speakers covering electrochemical technologies for water desalination (such as electrodialysis and capacitive deionization), (ion exchange) membrane processes for water treatment, advanced oxidation, adsorption processes for the removal of harmful compounds (such as arsenic), and the removal of (bio)colloidal particles with filtration systems. 

Keywords: Desalination, advanced oxidation, electrodialysis, capacitive deionization, (ion exchange) membrane processes, electrochemical processes

Urban infrastructure transitions

Various urban transitions are emerging; these include energy transition, circular and bio-based economy, climate adaptation, decentralization, etc. These transitions demand for additional and new type of infrastructure in and around cities. Physical and organizational capacity to accommodate and operate the new/additional infrastructure in cities requires thorough engineering, planning and design. In this research theme we address these infrastructural transition challenges via system modeling/analysis and experimentation in cities, with active involvement of multiple urban stakeholders.

Keywords: Urban infrastructure, transition, circular economy, climate adaptation, system analysis, urban living lab