2010 - The 4th Lettinga Award

Focus for call 2010

The focus of this call was on increasing the efficiency of the anaerobic treatment. Anaerobic processes gained more interest since the discussion on climate change started. Although this attention was (undeserved) not always a positive one, the world wide energy crises led to an increased appreciation of the role anaerobic processes can play in finding sustainable solutions for the challenges our world is facing today. The implementation of anaerobic processes can be further stimulated by improving the conversion rate of organic material into methane. This call was meant specifically to stimulate the innovations needed to realise this efficiency increase.

The winner of the Lettinga Award 2010 was the proposal of Shelley Brown-Malker, Rene Rozendal, Damien Batstone, Paul Jensen, Cristian Picioreanu, Korneel Rabaey and Jurg Keller from Advanced Water Management Centre (AWMC), University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia.

A number of high quality proposals were submit-ted for Lettinga Award 2010 and the judging committee, consisting of Prof. Fons Stams and Prof. Huub Rijnaarts from Wageningen Universi-ty, Mr. Bram Versprille from Biothane Systems International and Mr. Joop Colsen from Colsen b.v., had a difficult task to select a winner. There was a competition for the third place between proposals of Prof. Han-Qing Yu from the Univer-sity of Science and Technology of China in Hefei and Dr. Robbert Kleerebezem from Delft Univer-sity of Technology. On the second place ended the proposal of Dr. David Jeison from the Universidad de La Frontera in Temuco, Chile. However, the clear winner was the proposal of Dr. Shelley Brown-Malker and her colleagues entitled “Bio-Electrochemically upgrading the CO2 and H2S fractions of biogas: increasing the efficiency and adding value to Anaerobic Digestion technology”. This proposal was rated highest for its scope, quality and innovative approach. On behalf of the judging committee and LeAF, Mr. Jeroen van der Lubbe handed over the Lettinga Award to Prof. Jürg Keller, director of AWMC, during the AD12 in Mexico, beginning of November 2010.

The winning proposal addresses the issue of increasing volumes of biosolids from WWTPs in Australia. Biosolids often undergo a pre-treatment step followed by anaerobic digestion. During the digestion a biogas is formed as a mixture of methane (~50%), CO2 (~50%) and residual H2S. The research proposal is building on previous promising results, obtained by the same group at AWMC which used solubilised biosolids as an influent to a BioElectrochemical System (BES). The proposal includes placement of two BESs in series after biosolids undergo pre-treatment and anaerobic digestion, aiming at: removal of the residual organic fraction from the digestate; conversion of the CO2 biogas fraction to CH4; removal of H2S and production of H2O2 for on-site usage or down-stream combination with methane for bio-methanol production.

The judging committee was impressed by the quality of the winning proposal. They believe that the team has the appropriate scientific basis to bring the proposed work to a success. The winning team consists of two groups from AWMC (BioElectrochemical Systems and Anaerobic Biotechnology group) and the Environmental Biotechnology group of TU Delft.

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