Reinventing the Water Infrastructure: Integrated Recovery of Energy, Materials, Food, and Water

Lecture / Panel
For NYU Community

Reinventing the Water Infrastructure: Integrated Recovery of Energy, Materials, Food, and Water

Jaewook Myung
Postdoctoral Scholar
Pennsylvania State University

Water, energy, materials, and food are essential for human well-being, poverty reduction, and sustainable development. Global projections indicate that the demand for these valuable essentials will increase significantly over the next decades due to rise in both human populations and standards of living worldwide. Viable steps need to be taken to renew our increasingly scarce essential resources. One option is to recover these valuable resources (water, energy, materials, fertilizers, food, etc.) from waste/wastewater. This research presents recent innovations to transform waste/wastewater treatment infrastructure into resource recovery centers by converting waste/wastewater into biogas methane and using methanotrophic bacteria to convert biogas methane into value-added products. First, methanotrophic bacteria enables removal nitrogen from wastewater and generation of nitrous oxide, a potential co-oxidant of biogas methane to increase energy production. In addition, these bacteria can produce biodegradable bioplastic, polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs), a sustainable alternative to petroleum-based plastics that can sequester carbon and help address climate change. Methanotrophs can also produce prebiotic fish/animal foods that improve fish/animal health and enhance growth. Altogether, use of methanotrophic bacteria in waste treatment infrastructure enables production of valuable bioproducts and low-cost recovery of water.

Jaewook Myung is currently a Postdoctoral Scholar at Pennsylvania State University. He received a B.S. degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering at KAIST in 2011, and an M.S. and a Ph.D. degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering at Stanford University in 2014 and 2016, respectively. Jaewook’s interests are in converting water and waste treatment infrastructure that currently consume energy into systems that produce energy and recover resources. In this context, he has engaged in multiple projects in the nexus of water, energy, resources, materials, and environmental information.