Research

Our team manages microbial communities that provide services to society. Our services make society more environmentally sustainable, such as generating renewable energy and making polluted water and soil clean. The microbial services also make humans indirectly healthier by purifying the environment.

We apply the most advanced tools of molecular microbial ecology, chemistry, microscopy, and mathematical modeling to think like the microorganisms and, in turn, create systems that allow the microorganisms to provide beneficial services ranging from sustainable environmental processes to nutrient and energy recovery, to making humans healthier.

Our culture begins with our diverse set of researchers who come from many disciplines within engineering, life sciences, chemistry, and more. Partnerships are common within our center, as well as with other groups in ASU, national and international universities, and practitioners.

To date, our center has spun out two Biodesign research centers:

Managing microbial communities for societal service is achieved through cross-disciplinary and team-based research in the areas of engineering, sciences, sustainability, and biological design.

Major efforts of our center, include:

  • Mathematical modeling, specific to environmental biotechnology. Lab research ranges from fundamental concepts like chemical speciation, biofilms, and microbial ecology, to practical applications including microbial electrochemical cells, wastewater treatment, bioremediation, and membrane biofilm reactors.
    http://environmentalbiotechnology.org/rittmann-lab/
    http://environmentalbiotechnology.org/labs/marcus-lab/
     
  • Production of energy or high-value chemicals through microbiological technologies. We make use of microorganisms and their complex enzymatic machinery to carry out reactions that are difficult or impossible through any other known chemical route. Our main research interests are microbial electrochemistry, fermentations, and photosynthetic biofuel production.
    http://environmentalbiotechnology.org/rittmann-lab/
    http://environmentalbiotechnology.org/torres-lab/
     
  • Research of microbes. We study the ecology of carbon-rich ecosystems, the interactions and activities of microbes as potential ecosystem drivers, and the genomics and evolution of microbes to track their mechanisms of change. We also focus on novel groups of methane-producing Archaea and interacting bacteria in anaerobic, high-carbon content of natural or human-engineered environments.
    https://cadillo.lab.asu.edu/ 
     
  • Water sustainability. We minimize the production of waste byproducts and advance the water–energy–food nexus. Our water efforts include drinking water and wastewater treatment, natural aquatic systems, treatment of water at various lifecycle stages, water conservation, valuable material recovery, and sequestration of harmful contaminants.
    http://environmentalbiotechnology.org/rittmann-lab/
     
  • Systems approach to water quality and treatment. We consider global drivers such as urbanization, climate change, biogeochemical cycles, sustainable engineering, and disruptive innovation.
     
  • Field applications. We work in biological, chemical, and physical characterization of soils, biochemical reactive transport, and multiphase flow in porous media. Our team works with the ASU Center for Biomediated and Bioinspired Geotechnics to develop and transfer technologies from a proof-of-concept in the laboratory to field scale demonstration projects for a variety of geotechnical and geoenvironmental engineering applications.
    http://environmentalbiotechnology.org/labs/vanpaasen-lab/
     
  • Nanomaterials. Our team produces and uses nanomaterials in concert with microorganisms. We work with the NSF Center for Nano-enabled Water Treatment to develop novel nanobiotechnologies for detoxifying recalcitrant pollutants to purify a wide range of waters and wastewaters.
    http://environmentalbiotechnology.org/labs/boyer-lab/
    http://environmentalbiotechnology.org/rittmann-lab/

Capabilities

  • Extensive chemical analytical facility.
  • Fully equipped microbiology and molecular biology facility for research on classical microbiology and molecular microbial ecology.
  • Custom-designed process laboratory that maximizes flexibility for supporting bench-scale reactor systems.
  • Photobioenergy research laboratory with photobioreactor facility.
  • Deep expertise and capacity in molecular microbial ecology, mathematical modeling, and novel biotechnologies.
  • Expertise in the biological, chemical, and physical characterization of soils, biochemical reactive transport, and multiphase flow in porous media and affiliate with the Center for Biomediated and Bioinspired Geotechnics