Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2020ID163B

Engineered, Porous-Structured Biochar for Removing Phosphorus in Water: Production, Characterization, and Sustainable Treatment

Institute: Idaho
Year Established: 2020 Start Date: 2020-03-01 End Date: 2021-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $14,950 Total Non-Federal Funds: $29,973

Principal Investigators: Amin Mirkouei

Abstract: Description of the problem. According to the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality, “Idaho’s aquaculture industry ranks as the 3rd largest food-animal industry in the state and is the nation’s largest commercial producer of Rainbow Trout†[1]. Idaho’s aquaculture facilities “include both cold-water facilities that raise trout, sturgeon, salmon, and steelhead, as well as warm-water facilities that raise tropical fish, tilapia, and catfish†[1]. Recent studies reported that over 80 (out of 115) permitted aquaculture facilities are operating in Magic Valley, Idaho and discharging their waste to the Snake River or its tributaries [2]. These discharges include solid and liquid pollutants, such as fish feces, nutrients (especiallyphosphorus), uneaten fish food, algae, parasites, pathogens, drugs, and other chemicals, which have negative impacts on both surface and ground water and can pose environmental problems [1].These discharges can lead to changes in the levels of pH, phosphorus, nitrogen, and sediment, as well as water temperature, which can consequently decrease water quality. Also, these wastes and effluents can reduce the oxygen in water and oversupply nutrients (eutrophication) that encourage the growth of aquatic plants. Therefore, sustainable water treatment and aquaculture waste management are critical to have the best surface and ground water quality in Idaho. The motivation behind this study lies in enhancing sustainability benefits across Idaho’s aquaculture industry by developing a biochar-based water treatment system. Our team intends to explore (a) various modified biochar from four biomass feedstocks for reducing phosphorus and subsequently reducing Snake River eutrophication and (b) new technological developments (e.g., spectroradiometer) for real-time water characterization.Methods and Materials. This study aims to develop a decision-making framework to quantitatively determine and effectively improve water quality, employing new advanced technologies and biochar- based products. In this study, we will measure phosphate, pH, and temperature of the water, using various sensors and testers (e.g., HACH DR300 pocket colorimeter) in three different locations of the Snake River, for instance, before and after aquaculture facilities in the Hagerman area (known as the middle reach of the Snake River). Each experiment will be repeated three times to ascertain the repeatability and to identify the key factors. We will develop a real-time characterization approach, employing actual data from real experiments and spectroscopy analysis, along with machine learning approaches (e.g., support vector machine) for data training and classification, and prediction modeling.For producing engineered, porous-structured biochar, we will use our designed and built in-house, custom entrained-flow slow and fast pyrolysis reactors. A broad range of biochars from four types of biomass feedstocks (i.e., hybrid poplar, lodge pole pine, rice straw, and wheat straw) will be developed for the removal of phosphate in water and wastewater. Additionally, this study explores biochar production parameters (e.g., temperature range, heating rate, residence time) and three biochar properties (i.e., surface area, architecture, and porosity) to find an efficient water pollution mitigation and abatement. Ultimately, we will utilize the collected data and results to conduct life cycle assessment and root-cause analysis, and determine the best means of sustainability improvement.Project Goal and Objectives. The overarching goal of this project is to improve water quality and the performance of the growing Idaho's aquaculture industry by integrating new water treatment developments with biomass-based innovations. The primary objectives are (i) improving water quality and phosphate removal in water, using biochar-based products, (ii) real-time water quality estimation, using data from lab and field experiments, as well as spectroscopy analysis, and (iii) conducting sustainability assessment to identify the primary causes, which drive the fish production away from being sustainable. To accomplish the primary objectives, we will conduct the following research tasks (more detailed information about the subtasks can be found on item 17):1. Biochar Production and Characterization: This task aims to produce and study a broad range of biochars from individual and mixed biomass feedstocks, using fast and slow pyrolysis processes.2. Water Treatment and Biochar Testing: This task aims to build a lab-scale water treatment setup for testing biochar samples in terms of improving water quality and phosphorus removal.3. Sustainability Assessment: This task focuses on developing a decision-making framework to enhance sustainability benefits across the aquaculture industry.