Current research projects

Intensification of Anaerobic Digestion: Co-Digestion of Grease Interceptor Waste (GIW) with Thermally Hydrolyzed (TH) and non-TH Biosolids, F. L. de los Reyes III (PI), Urban Water Consortium,  (03/01/2020- 12/31/2021)

The intensification of anaerobic digestion (AD) of biosolids is a major goal and important factor in making anaerobic digestion economically feasible. This project explores two key ideas in significantly intensifying biomethane production in anaerobic digesters at water resource recovery facilities: using thermally hydrolyzed (TH) biosolids, and co-digestion with grease interceptor waste (GIW). Both are approaches that allow increased organic loading rates per unit volume of reactor, and separately have been the focus of research in the last few decades. This project is among the first to study how TH processes and GIW codigestion can be combined to further increase the intensification of methane production.

ERC Planning Grant: Sanitation and Water Infrastructure of the Future for Marginalized Communities, F. L. de los Reyes III (PI), NSF, (09/01/2019- 08/31/2020)

The vision for SWIFt-MC is to develop and use advanced engineering analysis, technologies, models, and solutions to re-engineer water and sanitation/wastewater systems in underserved areas—both those lacking sufficient infrastructure and those lacking the resources to maintain existing infrastructure. This proposed planning grant will enable us to: (1) develop the SWIFt team though collaborative design workshops, meetings, and discussions, and build on the convergent research “DNA” of the team, and (2) finalize the concepts (research as well as inclusion, workforce development, education), strategies, team composition, advisory boards, testbeds, and partner communities, in preparation for preliminary proposal writing.

Developing high-yield and resilient anaerobic co-digestion of alternative wastes, F. L. de los Reyes III (PI), Environmental Research and Education Foundation, October 2018- December 2020.

The overall objective of this project is to develop optimal operation of anaerobic digestion of food waste, particularly to increase methane yields, and process resilience and resistance to varying waste types and loads. This will lead to operational procedures that can be used in full-scale implementation of AD of food wastes by municipal utilities and industry.

Commercial Partner Engagement for Trash Excluder, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, July 2019 – August 2020.

Using Microbial Ecological Theory to Understand Microbial Community Dynamics and Improve Function of Anaerobic Bioreactors, F. L. de los Reyes III (PI), Joel J. Ducoste (co-PI), National Science Foundation. August 2018-July 2021

The goal of this project is to maximize the performance of anaerobic reactors that convert food waste to useful methane gas. Another goal is to increase the ability of the reactors to handle various food waste types. The key is determining how the microbial communities that perform the conversion are assembled under different conditions. The project will involve reactor experiments, molecular analysis, and mathematical modeling. Graduate and undergraduate students, including students from a historically black university, will be trained. The results will advance the science of waste conversion, and benefit municipalities and waste treatment industries as they seek realistic ways of converting waste to energy.

Reliable and Hygienic Pit Emptying Using Modified Screw Augers, F. L. de los Reyes III (PI), Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Oct. 2013 – Mar. 2019.

Building on our Phase I results, we will continue to improve and develop a low-cost, portable auger-based technology that can reliably and hygienically empty a wide variety of pit latrines and septic tanks (pits) containing wastes with a range of moisture contents. Thus one machine can be used in watery, low solids pits (e.g, as occur in Malawi), and high solids and trash pits (e.g., as occur in eThekwini municipality in South Africa).  We envision that a successful device will be used by local entrepreneurs or local governments in emptying pits all over the world, thus reducing the dangerous, unhygienic, and undignified practice of manual pit emptying.

Recently completed research:

EFRI-PSBR: Closing the Loop- Towards a PSBR Design Framework for Self-Sustained Marine Microalgal-Based Fuel Production, A Grunden (PI), F. L. de los Reyes III (co-PI), Joel J. Ducoste (co-PI), Ranji Ranjithan (co-PI), Heike Sederoff (co-PI), National Science Foundation,  9/1/2013 -8/31/2019

Molecular Profiling of the Prokaryotic Community in the Pitcher Fluid of Nepenthes Species from Mt. Makiling Forest Reserve, Philippines and Screening of the Bacterial Isolates for Insecticidal, Antimicrobial and Anticancer Activities, M. Hyman (PI), F. L. de los Reyes III (Co-PI), USAID STRIDE , $15,200 (04/01/2017-03-31/2018)

Inducing Aerobic Granulation in Continuous Flow Reactors Using Shear Variability, F. L. de los Reyes III (PI), Joel J. Ducoste (co-PI), National Science Foundation, 8/15/2013-8/14/2016

Improving Start-up and Operation of Anaerobic Co-digestion of Grease Interceptor Waste, F. L. de los Reyes III (PI) and T. Aziz (Co-PI), NC Water Resources Research Institute, $60,000 (3/1/2015-12/31/2016)

Improving the Anaerobic Treatment of Biosolids and High-Strength Waste Streams through Addition of Electrically-Conductive Particles, D. F. Call (PI) and F. L. de los Reyes III (Co-PI),NC Water Resources Research Institute, $60,000 (3/1/2015-12/31/2016)

Co-digestion of Grease Interceptor Waste, T. Aziz (PI) and F. L. de los Reyes III (Co-PI), NC Water Resources Research Institute, 3/1/2013-2/28/2014

Anaerobic Co-Digestion of Grease Trap Waste, F. L. de los Reyes III, T. Aziz, J. Ducoste (support from Hazen and Sawyer) 6/2012-5/2014

Effects of Kenaf on Wastewater Treatment Plant Performance and Microbiology, F. L. de los Reyes III (PI), NC Rural Economic Development Center 6/1/2011-12/31/2013