Apr 162011

A new technology that removes dangerous contaminants from water has earned Arizona State University inventor Bruce Rittmann prestigious Environmental Engineering Excellence Award from the American Association of Environmental Engineers.

The organization will present the award to Rittmann on May 4 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

Rittmann is the director of the Swette Center for Environmental Biotechnology in the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University and a Regents’ Professor of environmental engineering in the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, one of ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. His hydrogen-based membrane biofilm reactor (MBfR) removes contaminants, such as nitrate, perchlorate, selenate, chromate, and trichloroethene.  The presence of these contaminants in water supplies is a growing problem, but there is no cost-effective water treatment technology available to remove any of them, except for nitrate.

The MBfR has been extensively tested for its effect on many contaminants individually and in mixtures.  It is a versatile platform technology that can be used to treat drinking-water sources, ground or surface waters, industrial and agricultural wastewaters, and municipal wastewater. It is licensed and being commercialized by APTwater, Long Beach, Calif.

Perchlorate, for example, is a byproduct of rocket fuel that is found in the ground and river water throughout the southwestern United States.  According to the Centers for Disease Control, even low levels of it can affect the human thyroid.  So water treatment plants needed an efficient way to remove it from drinking water. That was what prompted Rittmann’s innovation.

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