Interdisciplinary Initiatives Program Round 11 - 2022

Project Investigators:

William Tarpeh, Chemical Engineering
Christopher Barnes, Biology
Laura Dassama, Chemistry
Alfred Spormann, Civil & Environmental Engineering and Chemical Engineering


Human society has exceeded what the planet can handle in many categories, such as atmospheric carbon emissions and nitrogen emissions in wastewater. While nitrogen is a critical fertilizer component that can feed a growing population, it also threatens aquatic life and human health when released in polluted waters. We advance wastewater refining, or the conversion of pollutants into products, using enzymes isolated from bacteria. This approach enables the production of fertilizers, fuels, and pharmaceutical components from wastewater. We aim to integrate enzymes into electricity-driven processes (enzymatic electrochemistry) that can be used for on-site wastewater treatment in diverse scenarios (e.g., city, neighborhood, household scales). Ultimately, we envision a future where wastewater is mined for maximal value before being discharged to the environment, thus reducing pollution and advancing sustainable manufacturing.