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Centre

Integrated Water, Energy and Food (IWEF) Centre

Unit(s) of assessment: Geography, Environmental Studies and Archaeology

Research theme: Sustainable Futures

School: School of Animal, Rural and Environmental Sciences

Overview

The IWEF research centre is a multidisciplinary research platform designed to study water pollution, industrial gas pollution, solid waste recycling, green energy production and food safety in an integrated manner. Briefly, the research is focusing on the water and soil remediation by removing pollutants from waters (e.g. nutrients) and soils (e.g. metals and persistent organic pollutants) using microalgae technology and nanotechnology and then utilising the pollutants and the algae biomass as a resource for green energy and soil remediation materials, the latter can help safe agricultural crop production.

The centre integrates chemical, biological, ecological, agricultural, aquatic, soil, nanomaterial, and social sciences to produce an integrated technical model, which aim to solve the global problems of water safety, energy shortage and food security/safety.

We welcome applications from students with appropriate first degrees to study for a higher degree in our Research Centre. Details of our latest projects, and those already complete, may be found below.

Research Aims

IWEF Research Framework

The IWEF Research Framework

IWEF research is driven by scientific-excellence and emerging market demands.

The research centre aims to develop ground-breaking solutions to globally strategic problems of environmental pollution, energy shortage, food security, and sustainable resource recovery. Our research will enhance national and international networks and build expert consortia to contribute to major research programs and international research excellence.

The IWEF research centre is studying the integrated technical principles and associated pilot models with which to turn pollutants in natural waters, contaminated soils, industrial wastewater and gas into integrated water-energy-food (IWEF) products.

Research Background

Diagram of ARES Research background

Background to our latest project: Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of global phosphorus cycling and waste circular biotechnology for P capture, carbon sequestration, and green energy generation.

Phosphorus (P) is a non-renewable resource and essential for food security. It has been suggested that current Phosphorus reserves can only support global food security for up to 125 years. The P discharged into natural waters causes increasing harmful algal blooms (HABs) worldwide and the biogeochemical P cycle is broken. However, microalgae are very effective at turning low levels of dissolved P into concentrated particulate P. As innovative technologies develop, re-capturing P from natural waters is expected to be a tipping point in closing the P cycle. The use of microalgal biotechnology to turn industrial wastewater and waste gas (e.g. CO2) into integrated water-energy-food (IWEF) products, such as fertilizers, feed supplement, biofuels, and electricity, may accelerate our endeavour for environmental sustainability and solve the viability and feasibility problems that have hindered the green industry from exploiting P recapture (J. Env. Sci., 2018, 65, 375).

In recent years, new geo-engineering technologies and materials have been developed to tackle large scale natural water pollution such as eutrophication and harmful algal blooms, including Modified Local Soil technology (see Water, 2019, 11, 1123). In this study we intend to use the LCA method to analyse environmental impacts and costs of such pollutant removal and waste circular technologies from raw material extraction and processing (cradle), through the product's manufacture, distribution and use, to the recycling or final disposal (grave) of the materials. This will involve a thorough inventory of the energy and materials that are required across the industry value chain of the product, process or service, and calculation of the corresponding emissions to the environment. It will provide guidance to the innovative business sector by assessing the effect, efficiency, and cumulative potential environmental impacts. The aim is to document and improve the overall environmental profile of the product. The investigators will need combined backgrounds of environmental engineering and business analysis/modelling.

Related Projects

  1. NEW PROJECT! Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of global phosphorus cycling and waste circular biotechnology for P capture, carbon sequestration, and green energy generation
  2. The development of modified local soil (MLS) material towards preventing sediment resuspension and stimulating indigenous macrophyte restoration. £116 k (2019-2021)
  3. Modified local soil (MLS) technology for harmful algal blooms control, sediment remediation, and ecological restoration. £21 k (2019-2022)
  4. UK/NZ project: Modified local soil and oxygen nanobubble technology to heal unwell taonga lakes. Cooperation with Ruto Ora Ltd. $60,000 (2020-2021)
  5. NTU QR fund for iWEF centre construction: Integrated water, energy and food (IWEF) pilot platform and studies. £140 k (2018-2020)
  6. Turning wastewater pollutants into micro/nano structure bio-hydrochar materials. £35 k (2018-2019)
  7. GCRF (quality-related research funding Global Challenges Research Fund): Establishing new research collaborations and developing sustainable solutions to pollution problems. £7 k (2019)
  8. Improve nutritional value for food sustainability using microalgal technology £13.2 k (2019)
  9. Improvement of crop yield by manipulating N mineralization with surface oxygen nanobubbles in organic agriculture (NTU-JAAS joint postdoctoral research project.
  10. Microalgae: a promising method toward water and food security by recovering phosphorus from wastewater to crops (NTU-JAAS joint postdoctoral research project).

Facilities

IWEF Facilities Images

Research facilities

The IWEF research centre received the initial NTU funding in 2018 to construct the pilot research platform on our Brackenhurst Campus. New indoor analytical labs are under construction with state-of-the-art facilities, which is due to complete in 2019.

We have a number of facilities available at the centre to enable us to further our research insights, these include:

  • SEAL AQ400 Auto-analyser
  • TECAN Spark Microplate Reader
  • Keithley Electrochemical Workstation
  • Elementar CHNOS Analyser
  • Particle Metrix ZetaView
  • Ion Chromatography
  • Gas Chromatography
  • Freeze Dryer
  • Bulk algae-cultivation apparatus

Related Videos

Collaboration

  • Prof. David Hamilton, Deputy Director of the Australian Rivers Institute, Griffith Unversity, Australia
  • Dr. Grant Douglas, Senior Principal Research Scientist, CSIRO Land and Water, Australia
  • Prof. Jing Zhang, Research Center for Eco-environmental Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences, China
  • Prof. Surinder Mehta, Department of Chemistry, Panjab University, India
  • Prof. Zhengping Hao, Director of National Key Engineering lab of VOC control, Chinese Academy of Sciences, China
  • Prof. Jianzhong Zheng, School of Environmental Sciences and Natural Resources, Chinese Academy of Sciences, China
  • Prof. Lirong Song, Wuhan Institute of Hydrobiology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, China
  • Prof. Qiuwen Chen, Nanjing Hydraulic Research Institute, China
  • Prof. Robert Mortimer, Pro Vice Chancellor, Research and Knowledge Transfer, York St John University, UK
  • Dr. Tao Lyu, Lecturer in Green Technologies, Cranfield Water Sciences Institute, Cranfield University, UK

Related staff

Advisory Board

Prof. Peter Liss, Fellow of Royal Society (FRS), Professorial Fellow at the University of East Anglia, UK

Internal Staff

  • Prof. Gang Pan, Director of the Centre of Integrated Water-Energy-Food (iWEF) studies, School of Animal Rural & Environmental Sciences, Nottingham Trent University, UK
  • Prof. Iain Barber. Deputy Dean, School of Animal, Rural and Environmental Sciences, Nottingham Trent University, UK
  • Dr. Nicholas Ray, Lecturer/Senior Lecturer, School of Animal Rural & Environmental Sciences, Nottingham Trent University, UK
  • Dr. Marcello Di Bonito, Lecturer/Senior Lecturer, School of Animal Rural & Environmental Sciences, Nottingham Trent University, UK
  • Dr. Mick Cooper, Research Assistant, School of Animal Rural & Environmental Sciences, Nottingham Trent University, UK

Alumni

  • Dr. Qingnan Chu, NTU-JASS joint postdoc, School of Animal Rural & Environmental Sciences, Nottingham Trent University, UK (2018-2019)
  • Dr. Yuncheng Wu, NTU-JASS joint postdoc, School of Animal Rural & Environmental Sciences, Nottingham Trent University, UK (2017-2018)
  • Miss. Samantha Best, Research assistant, BSc (Hons), MSc student, School of Science & Technology, Nottingham Trent University, UK (2017-2018)
  • Assoc. Prof. Bin Yue, Visiting Professor, Lanzhou City University, China (2018-2019)
  • Mrs. Bashaer Shariff, Research Assistant, School of Animal Rural & Environmental Sciences, Nottingham Trent University, UK (2019)
  • Miss. Danjia Yan, visiting Student, China Jiliang University, China (2019)