Integrated Energy and Resource Recovery from Waste and Wastewater

Craig Criddle, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Stanford University

Richard G.Luthy, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Stanford University

Monday, February 13, 2012 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All






Craig Criddle


Richard Luthy


By the end of the 20th century, the United States had about 15,000 wastewater treatment plants and 13,000 landfills. These systems were designed to prevent environmental harm and to protect public health. Other factors, such as energy costs and climate change, were not a consideration. Waste and wastewater were collected, transported to centralized facilities, treated to remove harmful agents, and the effluents and residuals discharged. Now these systems have reached their design life and are in need of revitalization. Energy costs, climate change, and demand for secure supplies of water, food and materials provide powerful incentives for technological innovation through the creation of circular markets. In such markets, wastewater becomes a resource for local production of freshwater and nutrients, and organic waste becomes feedstock for local production of energy and biomaterials. Many groups around the world are now developing technology to enable such innovation.


At Stanford, we are investigating energy recovery by converting ammonia to nitrous oxide, a powerful oxidant that increases energy production from methane combustion; oxidizing biodegradable organics using carbon nanotube-coated electrodes in microbial fuel cells; and tapping the salinity difference between wastewater effluent and seawater. We are also investigating strategies for aerobic conversion of biogas methane into polyhydroxybutyrate, a useful bioplastic, which can be degraded back to methane under anaerobic conditions. Development of these technologies will add to the growing menu of options available for conversion of treatment systems and landfills into local resource recovery centers. An important question is the scale at which technologies for resource recovery are best deployed and integrated into existing systems. Smart integration will enable production of water that offsets demands for imported freshwater, energy that offsets demands for imported fossil fuel, nutrients that offset demands for imported fertilizer, and new materials that offset demand for imported materials made from non-renewable feedstock.

Craig Criddle Biography:

Craig Criddle is a professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Stanford University and senior fellow in the Woods Institute for the Environment. He teaches courses on aquatic biogeochemistry, environmental biotechnology, and pathogens and disinfection. The focus of his research is biotechnology and microbial ecology for clean water, clean energy and green chemistry. He graduated from Utah State University in 1982 with a BS degree in civil and environmental engineering and a BA in Spanish, and in 1984 with a MS degree in environmental engineering. In 1990, he received his PhD from Stanford, with an emphasis on environmental biotechnology. After graduation, he was a member of the faculty in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Michigan State University for nine years. He has published over 100 refereed journal articles and is co-author with cartoonist Larry Gonick of the Cartoon Guide to Chemistry, a widely used supplement to high school and college chemistry courses. He is best known for interdisciplinary field projects, studies on bioreactor ecology and research on microbial transformation of contaminants, such as halogenated compounds and uranium.

Richard G. Luthy Biography:

Dick Luthy is the Silas H. Palmer professor and former chair of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and senior fellow at the Woods Institute for the Environment at Stanford University.  His area of teaching and research is environmental engineering and water quality with application to water reuse and management of contaminated sediments.  He is the director of the National Science Foundation’s Engineering Research Center for re-inventing urban water infrastructure. This center is a collaboration among four universities that promotes new strategies for urban water systems, enabled by technological developments and informed by a deeper understanding of institutional frameworks, to achieve more sustainable solutions to urban water challenges. Richard is a past chair of the National Research Council's Water Science and Technology Board and a former President of the Association of Environmental Engineering and Science Professors. He is a registered professional engineer and a member of the National Academy of Engineering.
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