iWEF HAB Control Ship

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


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.

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The iWEF Research Framework

Research Background

The iWEF research is driven by scientific-excellence and emerging market demands. Phosphorus 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. Human activities have created a one-way flow of non-renewable Phosphorus from rocks to farms to lakes, rivers and oceans. The discharge of Phosphorus into natural waters has contributed to the global proliferation of harmful algal blooms (HABs) that have several deleterious effects on aquatic ecosystems.

The development of innovative technologies to recapture discharged Phosphorus is necessary to close the one-way flow of Phosphorus. Microalgae is effective in converting low levels of dissolved Phosphorus into concentrated particulate Phosphorus. We have recently invented a patent technology where pond-land systems can be constructed to irrigate polluted soils using algal waters. After absorbing and removing various pollutants, the algae biomass can be harvested and used for green energy production (e.g. biofuel and bio-electricity) so that pollutants can be permanently removed from the soil and watershed, which can be used as resources through microalgae biotechnology.

Furthermore, microalgae can be cultured using industrial waste water and waste gas containing CO2. After purification of the waste water and gas, microalgae can be turned into biofuel for green energy. It is also possible to produce electricity by decomposing organic pollutants through bio-fuel cells. The remaining algal residues can be turned into multi-functional hollow sphere bio-char through nanomaterial technologies, which can be applied to soils to remove toxic metals and promote agriculture that provides safe food. The iWEF research centre will study the integrated technical principles and associated pilot modelsto turn pollutants in natural waters, contaminated soils, industrial waste water and gas into integrated water-energy-food (IWEF) products

Research Aims

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

Related Projects

  • Combating hypoxia/anoxia at sediment-water interfaces eco-friendly and cost-efficiently: oxygen nanobuble modified clay materials
  • Manipulation of hypoxia and methane emission in eutrophic waters
  • Aquatic vegetation restoration device and method
  • Sediment remediation by turning pollutants into self-powered light for ecological restoration
  • Turning wastewater pollutants into micro/nano structured bio-hydrochar materials
  • Improvement of crop yield by manipulating N mineralization with surface oxygen nanobubbles in organic agriculture

Impact Case Study

The research in the IWEF centre addresses the global problems of harmful algal blooms (HABs) and sediment pollution that can potentially affect public health/wellbeing, water safety, and aquatic ecological security.

This case study aims to develop aquatic ecological restoration technologies and strategies, which are ready-to-use by industries for HAB control and sediment remediation and by local governments for  decision/policy making. The main impact of the case study is to improve water quality, to halt biodiversity loss and to re-capture food and energy resources from HABs and polluted sediment in affected regions.

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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 insight, these include:

  • Auto-analyser
  • Microplate Reader
  • Electrochemical Workstation
  • TOC Analyser
  • NanoSight
  • Ion Chromatography
  • Gas Chromatography
  • Freeze Dryer

Related Staff

Advisory Board

Prof. Peter Liss, Fellow of Royal Society (FRS), emeritus professor in University of East Anglia, UK

Internal Staff

  • Prof. Gang Pan, Associated Dean for Research, School of Animal Rural & Environmental Sciences, Nottingham Trent University, UK
  • Prof. Robert Mortimer, Dean of 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. Tao Lyu, Postdoc Research Fellow, School of Animal Rural & Environmental Sciences, Nottingham Trent University, UK
  • Miss Samantha Best, Research assistant, BSc (Hons), MSc student, School of Science & Technology, Nottingham Trent University, UK
  • Dr. Qingnan Chu, NTU-JASS joint postdoc, School of Animal Rural & Environmental Sciences, Nottingham Trent University, UK
  • Dr. Yuncheng Wu, NTU-JASS joint postdoc, School of Animal Rural & Environmental Sciences, Nottingham Trent University, UK
  • Prof. Xiangyu Wang, visiting professor, Kunming University of Science and Technology, China
  • Assoc. Prof. Bin Yue, visiting professor, Lanzhou City University, China


  • Assoc. Prof. Ierotheos Zacharias, Department of Civil Engineering, University of Patras, Greece
  • Prof. David Hamilton, Deputy Director of the Australian Rivers Institute, University of Griffith, Australia
  • Dr. Grant Douglas, CSIRO Land and Water, Australia
  • Prof. Zhengping Hao, Director of National Key Engineering lab of VOC control, University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, China
  • Prof. Jianzhong Zheng, School of Environmental Sciences and Natural Resources, University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, China
  • Prof. Jing Zhang, Research Center for Eco-environmental Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences, China
  • Prof. Lirong Song, Wuhan Institute of Hydrobilogia, Chinese Academy of Sciences, China
  • Prof. Qiuwen Chen, Nanjing Academy of Hydrology and Ecology, China

Related Videos

Modified Soils for Algae and Phosphorus Solution - Professor Gang Pan

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