Scientists devise tech to treat wastewater, generate power

Scientists from five institutes across India have devised a wastewater treatment technology that can treat domestic wastewater and produce energy simultaneously. A paper on the patented technology, which is funded by the Department of Science and Technology (DSIR), Government of India, was published in the Elsevier’s journal Bioresource Technology on Wednesday.

The research said the efficient auto-circulating bio-electrochemical reactor, or AutoCirBER, can continuously treat large amounts of organic wastewater in short time at low cost.

The project has seen the collaboration of scientists from Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay (IIT-B); School of Basic Sciences and Research, Sharda University, Greater Noida; DSIR; Anand Engineering College, Agra; and Flemish Institute for Technological Research (VITO), Belgium.

Given the gap in availability of technology for wastewater treatment, the scientists were looking to find a simple, inexpensive and compact design that can continuously treat large amounts of organic wastewater without consuming external energy.

Moonmoon Hiloidhari, a co-author and a postdoc scientist at the interdisciplinary programme in Climate Studies at IIT-B, said: “We have tested the functional and environmental performances of AutoCirBER. The reactor performs well in both. The larger implication of the technology with respect to climate change will be understood when it is used at a large scale.”

AutoCirBER is not only self-sufficient in its requirement for energy but is also capable of producing large-scale electricity if used to treat an extensive amount of domestic wastewater.

Domestic wastewater is the water released from gardens, offices and households.

Conventionally, septic tanks are used to pre-treat domestic wastewater at the source before sewage is discharged into a water body.

The need for robust wastewater management system is more acute in developing countries, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), which says that untreated wastewater spreads various infectious diseases and causes over 2.1 million deaths every year.

Anoop Singh, DSIR scientist, said, “The treatment of domestic wastewater through AutoCirBER not only removes the impurities of wastewater but also controls environmental pollution caused due to faulty disposal of wastewater. Life cycle assessment of the study has proved that this technology is capable of saving the environment.”