Researching technologies for an energy sustainable water infrastucture

  • Logan Bioenergy Lab, Sackett Room 128

The main focus of the Logan lab is the development of new renewable energy technologies, such as microbial fuel cells, thermally regenerated batteries, and concentration difference cells, for achieving an energy sustainable water infrastructure. Additional research areas include electrochemical desalination and ammonia removal and recovery technologies, and membrane bioreactors.

Current Renewable Energy Research:
Bioenergy using organic matter in METs: The main focus of the Logan lab is on microbial electrochemical technologies (METs) such as microbial fuel cells (MFCs) for electricity generation production from organic matter in wastewater, and microbial electrolysis cells (MECs) which can be used for hydrogen gas or methane gas generation. We have developed METs for other different purposes, such as desalination, nutrient recovery, and carbon capture. We are interested in the microorganisms that are involved in these processes, as well as designing, analyzing, and engineering these systems.
Electricity using Solar or Waste Heat: Waste heat at industrial sites and power plants, as well as solar and geothermal heat sources, can provide additional sources of energy for producing electricity. Recently we invented a new method of capturing waste heat based on using this energy source to distill ammonia out of water, so that concentration gradients could be established with ammonia to generate power in a systems similar to a flow battery. These thermally regenerable batteries have advantages of both capturing waste as electrical power and energy storage.
Electricity from salinity gradients: The same technologies used for desalination can be modified and used for energy production. We are looking at using a new desalination technology developed in our lab called BDI with solutions of different salinities, such as freshwater and seawater, to produce electricity. There are many different types of salinity gradient energy technologies (SGE), but the ones that are being researched in our laboratory include: BDI, reverse electrodialysis (RED), capacitive mixing cells (CapMix) to extract energy based on electrode capacitance, and concentration flow cell-based (CFC) batteries that use pseudo-capactive electrode reactions to extract energy as electricity.

 Other Current Research Topics:
Desalination: A relatively new active area of research in the Logan lab is desalination. We have developed a new method of brackish water desalination called battery electrode deionization (BDI), which is a variant of capacitive deionization (CDI), which can also be used as a low-energy method for desalination. This system can also be used for selective ammonium ion removal and recovery from wastewaters. To improve the sustainability of all membrane-based technologies, especially seawater reverse osmosis membranes, we are developing new methods to reduce biofouling for example by using electrically conductive membranes and sacrificial (but reversible) fouling layers.
Membrane bioreactors:  For low-strength wastewaters (<~200 mg/L of COD) hollow fiber membrane bioreactors that contain a high concentration of granular activated carbon (GAC) can be used to effectively treat and filter wastewater. We have worked primarily with anaerobic membrane bioreactors, where the GAC is kept suspended using recirculation, but also with micro-aerobic bioreactors where the GAC is suspended by both air bubbles and recirculation. You can visit the xMBR page for information on these reactors, or more generally on membrane research at Penn State.

 Past Research Topics:
   Other research topics in the Logan Lab have included: particle dynamics, such as marine snow formation in the ocean, coagulation processes that produce fractal particles, and bioadhesion/bacterial transport in groundwater and filters; modeling of trickling filters; the development of a simplified measurement of biochemical oxygen demand call the HBOD test; perchlorate remediation; the degradation of pollutants using white rot fungi; and molecular-scale techniques to study particle dynamics and microbial adhesion in engineered and natural systems.

Current funding: Link to all funded projects in the Logan lab.

Bruce Logan is a member of the National Academy of Engineering (NAE), and a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), International Water Association (IWA), the Water Environment Foundation (WEF), and the Association of Environmental Science and Engineering Professors (AEESP). He is an investigator with KAUST (Saudi Arabia), a former Franqui International Chair at Ghent University (2013, Belgium); and a visiting professor at Newcastle University (UK), Tsinghua University, Harbin Institute of Technology, and Dalian University of Technology (China). Link to his FullCV- 7-26-19Logan Google scholar- citations.

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