Research on Wastewater Treatment, Reuse and Control Technologies for Achieving Sustainability

Project Description

“ÍTACA” is a research project on wastewater treatment, reuse and control  aimed to improve current teachnology by novel approaches related to wastewater treatment residues reuse and valorization. As an additional objective of the project, “ÍTACA” research is also dedicated to the development of a beyond-state-of-the-art centralized control system integrating advanced measurement and automation. To reach these objectives, research is framed in five areas: non-biologic wastewater treatments; biologic wastewater treatments; valorization of residues and by-products generated within the process; control and measurement systems; and smart water management.

Both biologic and non-biologic treatments research is mainly focused on two objectives: direct recovery of added value compounds and removal of pollution load until water reuse is guaranteed. Target elements are emerging/prioritary pollutants, persistent organic pollutants, salt pollution and microblia load.

Additional project research is conducted in order to go beyond a zero-residue impact strategy so as to reach even a positive environmental impact. To that end, novel valorization strategies aimed to the recovery and transformation of valuable compounds is envisaged. By-products and energy outputs of valorization processes are reused within the wastewater process as well, which minimizes both material and energy consumptions.

Finally, an improved smart management of wastewater treatment processes when compared to present practice is achieved through a novel centralized decision support system. Specifically, a multi-objective control system accounting for maximum level of purification, minimum amount of waste generated, and maximum energy and by-products valorization and recovery levels is developed.

IDENER contributions

  • Use of microalgae as a way to eliminate contaminants in real wastewater: Microalgae species to be used are selected according to the importance of the value added active compounds that they can produce. As for the microalgae selection, impact of effluents variability related to place of generation, culture conditions, bioreactor configuration and pre-treatment or complementary treatment requirements are studied. Moreover, effectiveness of the proposed treatment is evaluated. Additionally, CO2 capture is assessed in order to gain knowledge about the environmental implications of using microalgae as a treatment for eliminating contaminants. 
  • High value added products extraction from microalgae biomass: Wastes generated after the microalgae based treatment of wastewater (mainly composed by microalgae biomass) are considered as a source and/or raw material to be used for high value added products production, e.g. biodegradable plastics, biofuels, etc. Hence, extraction methods to be used as for such a purpose are studied.
  • Sludge treatment and valorisation through MFC: Microbial Fuel Cells (MFC) are studied as a possible way to treat and valorise the sludge to be generated through the wastewater treatment process, paying special attention to oxidisable compounds to be treated at the anode or to phosphate, nitrate, etc. electrochemical reduction according to each sludge characteristics. Microorganism/substrate combinations to be used as for the anode/cathode are selected by carrying out advanced electrochemical characterisation: voltametry, cronoamperometry, etc…In addition, different materials and architectures for electrodes, different biofilms and the need of developing a pre-treatment stage will are also studied. Finally, selected microorganisms behaviour when processing real sludge samples are evaluated and compounds degradation and electrochemical performance (coulombic efficiency, electric power, device life-time, etc) are analysed. 
  • Processes modelling and control architectures development: As first step, processes involved in the wastewater treatment and wastes valorisation strategies proposed are modelled. Since there is no much knowledge about the proposed solution due to its novelty, emphasis is placed in the production of dynamic models, especially for microalgae cultures and microbial fuel cells. Additionally, possible control architectures are studied and their limitations when being applied to these technologies are evaluated. 
  • Advanced control: The processes proposed in this project as for wastewater treatment and its corresponding wastes valorisation require the use of complex control systems, able to consider all the variables involved in these technologies (e.g. as for biological processes, strong interdepences may appear). One of the main innovations in the system control knowledge area is the application of distributed control strategies to the wastewater treatment plants. Hence, it will be possible to manage, in a very precise way, a big amount of variables and historical data. In addition, algorithms aimed to data processing use such information to adapt processes operation to external conditions or to predict the actions to be taken according to historical results.


cdtilogo The research leading to these results has received funding from CDTI and has been supported by the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness – “Fondo de inversión local para el empleo, Gobierno de España”

Project Details

  • Date 29 September, 2013
  • Tags Biotechnology, Energy, Environment, Modeling and Simulation, Public - National
  • Project cost 15.475.454 EUR
  • Start date October, 2011
  • End date March, 2015
Launch Project
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