• Copper current collectors reduce long-term fouling of air cathodes in microbial fuel cells

      Myung, Jaewook; Yang, Wulin; Saikaly, Pascal; Logan, Bruce E (Environmental Science: Water Research & Technology, Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC), 2018-02-05) [Article]
      Long-term operation of wastewater-fed, microbial fuel cells (MFCs) with cathodes made of activated carbon and stainless steel (SS) current collectors can result in decreased performance due to cathode fouling. Copper has good antimicrobial properties, and it is more electrically conductive than SS. To demonstrate that a copper current collector could produce a more fouling resistant cathode, MFCs with air cathodes using either SS or copper current collectors were operated using domestic wastewater for 27 weeks. The reduction in biofouling over time was shown by less biofilm formation on the copper cathode surface compared to SS cathodes, due to the antimicrobial properties of copper. Maximum power densities from 17–27 weeks were 440 ± 38 mW/m2 using copper and 370 ± 21 mW/m2 using SS cathodes. The main difference in the microbial community was a nitrifying community on the SS cathodes, which was not present on the copper cathodes.
    • Chapter 1: Solar, wind and geothermal energy applications in agriculture: back to the future?

      Bundschuh, Jochen; Chen, Guangnan; Tomaszewska, Barbara; Ghaffour, NorEddine; Mushtaq, Shahbaz; Hamawand, Ihsan; Reardon-Smith, Kathryn; Maraseni, Tek; Banhazi, Thomas; Mahmoudi, Hacene; Goosen, Mattheus; Antille, Diogenes L. (Sustainable Energy Developments, Informa UK Limited, 2017-09-13) [Book Chapter]
      The agri-food chain consumes about one third of the world’s energy production with about 12% for crop production and nearly 80% for processing, distribution, retail, preparation and cooking (Fig. 1.1) (FAO, 2011a). The agri-food chain also accounts for 80-90% of total global freshwater use (Hoff, 2011) where 70% is for irrigation alone. Additionally, on a global scale, freshwater production consumes nearly 15% of the entire energy production (IEA, 2012). It can therefore be argued that making agriculture and the agri-food supply chain independent from fossil fuel use has huge potential to contribute to global food security and climate protection not only for the next decades, but also for the coming century. Provision of secure, accessible and environmentally sustainable supplies of water, energy and food must thus be a priority.
    • Review on strategies for biofouling mitigation in spiral wound membrane systems

      Bucs, Szilard; Farhat, Nadia; Kruithof, Joop C.; Picioreanu, Cristian; van Loosdrecht, Mark C.M.; Vrouwenvelder, Johannes S. (Desalination, Elsevier BV, 2018-02-01) [Article]
      Because of the uneven distribution of fresh water in time and space, a large number of regions are experiencing water scarcity and stress. Membrane based desalination technologies have the potential to solve the fresh water crisis in coastal areas. However, in many cases membrane performance is restricted by biofouling. The objective of this review is to provide an overview on the state of the art strategies to control biofouling in spiral wound reverse osmosis membrane systems and point to possible future research directions. A critical review on biofouling control strategies such as feed water pre-treatment, membrane surface modification, feed spacer geometry optimization and hydrodynamics in spiral wound membrane systems is presented. In conclusion, biofouling cannot be avoided in the long run, and thus biofouling control strategies should focus on delaying the biofilm formation, reducing its impact on membrane performance and enhancing biofilm removal by advanced cleaning strategies. Therefore, future studies should aim on: (i) biofilm structural characterization; (ii) understanding to what extent biofilm properties affect membrane filtration performance, and (iii) developing methods to engineer biofilm properties such that biofouling would have only a low or delayed impact on the filtration process and accumulated biomass can be easily removed.
    • Bacterial cell numbers and community structures of seawater biofilms depend on the attachment substratum

      Yap, Scott A.; Scarascia, Giantommaso; Hong, Pei-Ying (DESALINATION AND WATER TREATMENT, Desalination Publications, 2018-02-02) [Article]
      Seawater is increasingly being used as a source for various industrial applications. For such applications, biofilm growth creates various problems including but not limited to pipe biocorrosion. In this study, it is hypothesized that the material type is preferred by certain bacterial populations in the seawater to attach and establish biofilms. By comparing differences in the total cell counts and microbial communities attached to high-density polyethylene (HDPE), polycarbonate, stainless steel (SS316) and titanium, the appropriate material can be used to minimize biofilm growth. All four materials have hydrophilic surfaces, but polycarbonate exhibits higher surface roughness. There were no significant differences in the cell numbers attached to polycarbonate, HDPE and titanium. Instead, there were significantly fewer cells attached to SS316. However, there was a higher relative abundance of genera associated with opportunistic pathogens on SS316. Copy numbers of genes representing Desulfobacteraceae and Desulfobulbaceae, both of which are sulfate-reducing bacteria (SRB), were approximately 10-fold higher in biofilms sampled from SS316. The enrichment of SRB in the biofilm associated with SS316 indicates that this material may be prone to biocorrosion. This study highlights the need for industries to consider the choice of material used in seawater applications to minimize microbial-associated problems.
    • Vacuum membrane distillation of liquid desiccants Utilizing Hollow Fiber Membranes

      Lefers, Ryan; Srivatsa Bettahalli, N.M.; Fedoroff, Nina V.; Nunes, Suzana Pereira; Leiknes, TorOve (Separation and Purification Technology, Elsevier BV, 2018-01-31) [Article]
      This paper documents the testing of a vacuum membrane distillation system intended for use with liquid desiccants. Liquid desiccants offer the possibility for low-energy, ambient temperature dehumidification. Effective desalination and purification of diluted desiccants outputs two important products: a concentrated desiccant for reuse in dehumidification and fresh water. In this study, vacuum membrane distillation was used in the laboratory to purify diluted liquid desiccants. Calcium chloride and magnesium chloride were the desiccants selected for testing. Desiccant solutions were pumped through the lumens of poly(vinylidene fluoride) (PVDF) hollow fiber membranes at varying feed inlet temperatures, solution velocity rates and vacuum set points during membrane distillation. An average flux of 8 kg m-2 h-1 was obtained using 30 wt% magnesium chloride solution at a temperature of 50 °C while applying vacuum to achieve 25 mbar absolute pressure on the air side of the membrane. The results are promising for the development of a full-scale vacuum membrane distillation process for desiccant solution regeneration and fresh water recovery. In addition, the recovered condensate was of sufficient quality for use in agricultural irrigation or drinking water.
    • Desalination Processes Evaluation at Common Platform: A Universal Performance Ratio (UPR) Method

      Wakil Shahzad, Muhammad; Burhan, Muhammad; Soo Son, Hyun; Jin Oh, Seung; Ng, Kim Choon (Applied Thermal Engineering, Elsevier BV, 2018-01-31) [Article]
      The inevitable escalation in economic development have serious implications on energy and environment nexus. The International Energy Outlook 2016 (IEO2016) predicted that the Non Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (non-OECD) countries will lead with 71% rise in energy demand in contrast with only 18% in developed countries from 2012-2040. In Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, about 40% of primary energy is consumed for cogeneration based power and desalination plants. The cogeneration based plants are struggling with unfair primary fuel cost apportionment to electricity and desalination. Also, the desalination processes performance evaluated based on derived energy, providing misleading selection of processes. There is a need of (i) appropriate primary fuel cost appointment method for multi-purposed plants and (ii) desalination processes performance evaluation method based on primary energy. As a solution, we proposed exergetic analysis for primary fuel percentage apportionment to all components in the cycle according to the quality of working fluid utilized. The proposed method showed that the gas turbine was under charged by 40%, steam turbine was overcharged by 71% and desalination was overcharged by 350% by conventional energetic apportionment methods. We also proposed a new and most suitable desalination processes performance evaluation method based on primary energy, called universal performance ratio (UPR). Since UPR is based on primary energy, it can be used to evaluate any kind of desalination processes, thermally driven, pressure driven & humidification-dehumidification etc. on common platform. We showed that all desalination processes are operating only at 10-13% of thermodynamic limit (TL) of UPR. For future sustainability, desalination must achieve 25-30% of TL and it is only possible either by hybridization of different processes or by innovative membrane materials.
    • Polyoxadiazole hollow fibers for produced water treatment by direct contact membrane distillation

      Xu, Jingli; Srivatsa Bettahalli, N.M.; Chisca, Stefan; Khalid, Mohammed Khalil; Ghaffour, NorEddine; Vilagines, Régis; Nunes, Suzana Pereira (Desalination, Elsevier BV, 2018-01-08) [Article]
      Treatment of produced water in the petroleum industry has been a challenge worldwide. In this study, we evaluated the use of direct contact membrane distillation (DCMD) for this purpose, removing oil and dissolved elements and supplying clean water from waste. We synthesized fluorinated polyoxadiazole, a highly hydrophobic polymer, to fabricate hollow fiber membranes, which were optimized and tested for simulated produced water and real produced water treatment. The process performance was investigated under different operating parameters, such as feed temperature, feed flow velocity and length of the membrane module for 4 days. The results indicate that by increasing feed temperature and feed flow rate the vapor flux increases. The flux decreased with increasing the length of the module due to the decrease of the driving force along the module. The fouling behavior, which corresponds to flux decline and cleaning efficiency of the membrane, was studied. The performance of the fabricated hollow fiber membranes was demonstrated for the treatment of produced water, complying with the industrial reuse and discharge limits.
    • Intelligent Environmental Nanomaterials

      Chang, Jian; Zhang, Lianbin; Wang, Peng (Environmental Science: Nano, Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC), 2018-01-30) [Article]
      Due to the inherent complexity of environmental problems, especially water and air pollution, the utility of single-function environmental nanomaterials used in conventional and unconventional environmental treatment technologies are gradually reaching their limits. Intelligent nanomaterials with environmentally-responsive functionalities have shown potential to improve the performance of existing and new environmental technologies. By rational design of their structures and functionalities, intelligent nanomaterials can perform different tasks in response to varying application scenarios for the purpose of achieving the best performance. This review offers a critical analysis of the design concepts and latest progresses on the intelligent environmental nanomaterials in filtration membranes with responsive gates, materials with switchable wettability for selective and on-demand oil/water separation, environmental materials with self-healing capability, and emerging nanofibrous air filters for PM2.5 removal. We hope that this review will inspire further research efforts to develop intelligent environmental nanomaterials for the enhancement of the overall quality of environmental or human health.
    • Hierarchical Composite Membranes with Robust Omniphobic Surface Using Layer-By-Layer Assembly Technique

      Woo, Yun Chul; Kim, Youngjin; Yao, Minwei; Tijing, Leonard Demegilio; Choi, Juneseok; Lee, Sangho; Kim, Seunghyun; Shon, Hokyong (Environmental Science & Technology, American Chemical Society (ACS), 2018-01-17) [Article]
      In this study, composite membranes were fabricated via layer-by-layer (LBL) assembly of negatively-charged silica aerogel (SiA) and 1H, 1H, 2H, 2H – Perfluorodecyltriethoxysilane (FTCS) on a polyvinylidene fluoride phase inversion membrane, and interconnecting them with positively-charged poly(diallyldimethylammonium chloride) (PDDA) via electrostatic interaction. The results showed that the PDDA-SiA-FTCS coated membrane had significantly enhanced the membrane structure and properties. New trifluoromethyl and tetrafluoroethylene bonds appeared at the surface of the coated membrane, which led to lower surface free energy of the composite membrane. Additionally, the LBL membrane showed increased surface roughness. The improved structure and property gave the LBL membrane an omniphobic property, as indicated by its good wetting resistance. The membrane performed a stable air gap membrane distillation (AGMD) flux of 11.22 L/m2h with very high salt rejection using reverse osmosis brine from coal seam gas produced water as feed with the addition of up to 0.5 mM SDS solution. This performance was much better compared to those of the neat membrane. The present study suggests that the enhanced membrane properties with good omniphobicity via LBL assembly make the porous membranes suitable for long-term AGMD operation with stable permeation flux when treating challenging saline wastewater containing low surface tension organic contaminants.
    • Characterization of the bacterial community in shower water before and after chlorination

      Peters, Marjolein C. F. M.; Keuten, Maarten G. A.; Knezev, Aleksandra; van Loosdrecht, Mark C.M.; Vrouwenvelder, Johannes S.; Rietveld, Luuk C.; de Kreuk, Merle K. (Journal of Water and Health, IWA Publishing, 2017-12-22) [Article]
      Bathers release bacteria in swimming pool water, but little is known about the fate of these bacteria and potential risks they might cause. Therefore, shower water was characterized and subjected to chlorination to identify the more chlorine-resistant bacteria that might survive in a chlorinated swimming pool and therefore could form a potential health risk. The total community before and after chlorination (1 mg Cl2 L−1 for 30 s) was characterized. More than 99% of the bacteria in the shower water were Gram-negative. The dominant bacterial families with a relative abundance of ≥10% of the total (non-chlorinated and chlorinated) communities were Flavobacteriaceae (24–21%), Xanthomonadaceae (23–24%), Moraxellaceae (12–11%) and Pseudomonadaceae (10–22%). The relative abundance of Pseudomonadaceae increased after chlorination and increased even more with longer contact times at 1 mg Cl2L−1. Therefore, Pseudomonadaceae were suggested to be relatively more chlorine resistant than the other identified bacteria. To determine which bacteria could survive chlorination causing a potential health risk, the relative abundance of the intact cell community was characterized before and after chlorination. The dominant bacterial families in the intact community (non-chlorinated and chlorinated) were Xanthomonadaceae (21–17%) and Moraxellaceae (48–57%). Moraxellaceae were therefore more chlorine resistant than the other identified intact bacteria present.
    • Sensitivity of Landsat 8 Surface Temperature Estimates to Atmospheric Profile Data: A Study Using MODTRAN in Dryland Irrigated Systems

      Rosas, Jorge; Houborg, Rasmus; McCabe, Matthew (Remote Sensing, MDPI AG, 2017-09-26) [Article]
      The land surface temperature (LST) represents a critical element in efforts to characterize global surface energy and water fluxes, as well as being an essential climate variable in its own right. Current satellite platforms provide a range of spatial and temporal resolution radiance data from which LST can be determined. One of the most complete records of data comes via the Landsat series of satellites, which provide a continuous sequence that extends back to 1982. However, for much of this time, Landsat thermal data were provided through a single broadband thermal channel, making surface temperature retrieval challenging. To fully exploit the valuable time-series of thermal information that is available from these satellites requires efforts to better describe and understand the accuracy of temperature retrievals. Here, we contribute to these efforts by examining the impact of atmospheric correction on the estimation of LST, using atmospheric profiles derived from a range of in-situ, reanalysis, and satellite data. Radiance data from the thermal infrared (TIR) sensor onboard Landsat 8 was converted to LST by using the MODTRAN version 5.2 radiative transfer model, allowing the production of an LST time series based upon 28 Landsat overpasses. LST retrievals were then evaluated against in-situ thermal measurements collected over an arid zone farmland comprising both bare soil and vegetated surface types. Atmospheric profiles derived from AIRS, MOD07, ECMWF, NCEP, and balloon-based radiosonde data were used to drive the MODTRAN simulations. In addition to examining the direct impact of using various profile data on LST retrievals, randomly distributed errors were introduced into a range of forcing variables to better understand retrieval uncertainty. Results indicated differences in LST of up to 1 K for perturbations in emissivity and profile measurements, with the analysis also highlighting the challenges in modeling aerosol optical depth (AOD) over arid lands and its impact on the TIR bands. Days with high AOD content (AOD > 0.5) in the evaluation study seem to consistently underestimate in-situ LSTs by 1-2 K, suggesting that MODTRAN is unable to accurately simulate the aerosol conditions for the TIR bands. Comparisons between available in-situ and Landsat 8 derived LST illustrate a range of seasonal and land surface dynamics and provide an assessment of retrieval accuracy throughout the nine-month long study period. In terms of the choice of atmospheric profile, when excluding the in-situ data, results show a mean absolute range of between 1.2 K to 1.8 K over bare soil and 3.3 K to 3.8 K over alfalfa for the different meteorological forcing, with the AIRS profile providing the best reproduction over the studied arid land irrigation region.
    • Response of Chlorophyll, Carotenoid and SPAD-502 Measurement to Salinity and Nutrient Stress in Wheat (Triticum aestivum L.)

      Shah, Syed Haleem; Houborg, Rasmus; McCabe, Matthew (Agronomy, MDPI AG, 2017-09-12) [Article]
      Abiotic stress can alter key physiological constituents and functions in green plants. Improving the capacity to monitor this response in a non-destructive manner is of considerable interest, as it would offer a direct means of initiating timely corrective action. Given the vital role that plant pigments play in the photosynthetic process and general plant physiological condition, their accurate estimation would provide a means to monitor plant health and indirectly determine stress response. The aim of this work is to evaluate the response of leaf chlorophyll and carotenoid (C-t) content in wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) to changes in varying application levels of soil salinity and fertilizer applied over a complete growth cycle. The study also seeks to establish and analyze relationships between measurements from a SPAD-502 instrument and the leaf pigments, as extracted at the anthesis stage. A greenhouse pot experiment was conducted in triplicate by employing distinct treatments of both soil salinity and fertilizer dose at three levels. Results showed that higher doses of fertilizer increased the content of leaf pigments across all levels of soil salinity. Likewise, increasing the level of soil salinity significantly increased the chlorophyll and Ct content per leaf area at all levels of applied fertilizer. However, as an adaptation process and defense mechanism under salinity stress, leaves were found to be thicker and narrower. Thus, on a per-plant basis, increasing salinity significantly reduced the chlorophyll (Chl(t)) and Ct produced under each fertilizer treatment. In addition, interaction effects of soil salinity and fertilizer application on the photosynthetic pigment content were found to be significant, as the higher amounts of fertilizer augmented the detrimental effects of salinity. A strong positive (R-2 = 0.93) and statistically significant (p < 0.001) relationship between SPAD-502 values and Chlt and between SPAD-502 values and Ct content (R-2 = 0.85) was determined based on a large (n = 277) dataset. We demonstrate that the SPAD-502 readings and plant photosynthetic pigment content per-leaf area are profoundly affected by salinity and nutrient stress, but that the general form of their relationship remains largely unaffected by the stress. As such, a generalized regression model can be used for Chlt and Ct estimation, even across a range of salinity and fertilizer gradients.
    • Identification of Tropical-Extratropical Interactions and Extreme Precipitation Events in the Middle East based on Potential Vorticity and Moisture Transport

      de Vries, A. J.; Ouwersloot, H. G.; Feldstein, S. B.; Riemer, M.; El Kenawy, A. M.; McCabe, Matthew; Lelieveld, J. (Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres, American Geophysical Union (AGU), 2017-12-26) [Article]
      Extreme precipitation events in the otherwise arid Middle East can cause flooding with dramatic socioeconomic impacts. Most of these events are associated with tropical-extratropical interactions, whereby a stratospheric potential vorticity (PV) intrusion reaches deep into the subtropics and forces an incursion of high poleward vertically integrated water vapor transport (IVT) into the Middle East. This study presents an object-based identification method for extreme precipitation events based on the combination of these two larger-scale meteorological features. The general motivation for this approach is that precipitation is often poorly simulated in relatively coarse weather and climate models, whereas the synoptic-scale circulation is much better represented. The algorithm is applied to ERA-Interim reanalysis data (1979-2015) and detects 90% (83%) of the 99th (97.5th) percentile of extreme precipitation days in the region of interest. Our results show that stratospheric PV intrusions and IVT structures are intimately connected to extreme precipitation intensity and seasonality. The farther south a stratospheric PV intrusion reaches, the larger the IVT magnitude, and the longer the duration of their combined occurrence, the more extreme the precipitation. Our algorithm detects a large fraction of the climatological rainfall amounts (40-70%), heavy precipitation days (50-80%), and the top 10 extreme precipitation days (60-90%) at many sites in southern Israel and the northern and western parts of Saudi Arabia. This identification method provides a new tool for future work to disentangle teleconnections, assess medium-range predictability and improve understanding of climatic changes of extreme precipitation in the Middle East and elsewhere.
    • Hydrogen at the Rooftop: Compact CPV-Hydrogen system to Convert Sunlight to Hydrogen

      Burhan, Muhammad; Wakil Shahzad, Muhammad; Ng, Kim Choon (Applied Thermal Engineering, Elsevier BV, 2017-12-27) [Article]
      Despite being highest potential energy source, solar intermittency and low power density make it difficult for solar energy to compete with the conventional power plants. Highly efficient concentrated photovoltaic (CPV) system provides best technology to be paired with the electrolytic hydrogen production, as a sustainable energy source with long term energy storage. However, the conventional gigantic design of CPV system limits its market and application to the open desert fields without any rooftop installation scope, unlike conventional PV. This makes CPV less popular among solar energy customers. This paper discusses the development of compact CPV-Hydrogen system for the rooftop application in the urban region. The in-house built compact CPV system works with hybrid solar tracking of 0.1° accuracy, ensured through proposed double lens collimator based solar tracking sensor. With PEM based electrolyser, the compact CPV-hydrogen system showed 28% CPV efficiency and 18% sunlight to hydrogen (STH) efficiency, for rooftop operation in tropical region of Singapore. For plant designers, the solar to hydrogen production rating of 217 kWh/kg has been presented with 15% STH daily average efficiency, recorded from the long term field operation of the system.
    • A Robust CuCr2O4/SiO2 Composite Photothermal Material with Underwater Black Property and Extremely High Thermal Stability for Solar-Driven Water Evaporation

      Shi,Yusuf; Li, Renyuan; Shi, Le; Ahmed, Elaf; Jin, Yong; Wang, Peng (Advanced Sustainable Systems, Wiley, 2017-12-27) [Article]
      The design and fabrication of efficient photothermal materials is the key issue in solar-driven water evaporation. In this work, a robust CuCr2O4/SiO2 composite membrane with outstanding solar-driven water evaporation performance (1.32 kg m−2 h−1) under one sun irradiation is rationally designed and synthesized by using quartz glass fibrous membrane as supporting matrix and stable CuCr2O4 particles as the active light absorber. Instead of coating a separate layer on top of the support, the CuCr2O4 particles are evenly distributed inside the matrix, which endows the membrane with great mechanical strength and excellent wear and abrasion resistance. The highly porous composite survives 6 atm pressure and retains its performance even after 75% of the membrane is removed by sandpaper. This work also looks into a generally overlooked aspect of wet versus dry state of photothermal material and its implications. Interestingly, the composite possesses a gray color with a high reflectance in dry state but turns into deep black with a low reflectance in wet state due to the decreased subsurface scattering and strong NIR light absorbance of water in wet state. This composite material also possesses excellent thermal stability and thermal shock resistance, making it able to be easily recovered by calcination in air or direct burning in fire for contaminants removal. The results demonstrate that this composite is a competitive photothermal material for practical solar distillation and indicate that the optical properties of material in wet state are more relevant to photothermal material screening and optimization for solar distillation.
    • Impact of SRT on the performance of MBRs for the treatment of high strength landfill leachate

      El-Fadel, M.; Sleem, F.; Hashisho, J.; Saikaly, Pascal; Alameddine, I.; Ghanimeh, S. (Waste Management, Elsevier BV, 2017-12-14) [Article]
      This study examines the performance and fouling potential of flat sheet (FS) and hollow fiber (HF) membrane bioreactors (MBRs) during the treatment of high strength landfill leachate under varying solid retention times (SRT = 5–20 days). Mixed-liquor bacterial communities were examined over time using 16S rRNA gene sequence analysis in an attempt to define linkages between the system performance and the microbial community composition. Similarly, biofilm samples were collected at the end of each SRT to characterize the microbial communities that evolved on the surface of the FS and HF membranes. In general, both systems exhibited comparable removal efficiencies that dropped significantly as SRT was decreased down to 5 days. Noticeably, ammonia and nitrite oxidizing bacteria were not detected at the tested SRTs. This suggests that the nitrifiers were not enriched, possibly due to the high organic and ammonium content of the leachate that led to low TN and NH3 removal efficiency. The steady-state fouling rate of both membranes increased linearly with the decrease in SRT at an estimated factor of 1.1 and 1.2 for the FS- and HF-MBR, respectively, when the SRT was reduced from 15 to 10 days and from 10 to 5 days. Similar dominant genera were detected in both MBRs, including Pseudomonas, Aequorivita, Ulvibacter, Taibaiella, and Thermus. Aequorivita, Taibaiella; Thermus were the dominant genera in the biofilms. Hierarchical clustering and non-metric multidimensional scaling revealed that while the mixed liquor communities in the FS-MBR and HF-MBRs were dynamic, they clustered separately. Similarly, biofilm communities on the FS and HF membranes differed in the dynamic bacterial community structure, especially for the FS-MBR; however this was less dynamic than the mixed liquor community.
    • Correlation between system performance and bacterial composition under varied mixing intensity in thermophilic anaerobic digestion of food waste

      Ghanimeh, Sophia A.; Al-Sanioura, Dana N.; Saikaly, Pascal; El-Fadel, Mutasem (Journal of Environmental Management, Elsevier BV, 2017-12-07) [Article]
      This study examines the stability and efficiency of thermophilic anaerobic digesters treating food waste under various mixing velocities (50–160 rpm). The results showed that high velocities (120 and 160 rpm) were harmful to the digestion process with 18–30% reduction in methane generation and 1.8 to 3.8 times increase in volatile fatty acids (VFA) concentrations, compared to mild mixing (50 and 80 rpm). Also, the removal rate of soluble COD dropped from 75 to 85% (at 50–80 rpm) to 20–59% (at 120–160 rpm). Similarly, interrupted mixing caused adverse impacts and led to near-failure conditions with excessive VFA accumulation (15.6 g l), negative removal rate of soluble COD and low methane generation (132 ml gVS). The best efficiency and stability were achieved under mild mixing (50 and 80 rpm). In particular, the 50 rpm stirring speed resulted in the highest methane generation (573 ml gVS). High-throughput sequencing of 16S rRNA genes revealed that the digesters were dominated by one bacterial genus (Petrotoga; phylym Thermotogae) at all mixing velocities except at 0 rpm, where the community was dominated by one bacterial genus (Anaerobaculum; phylum Synergistetes). The Petrotoga genus seems to have played a major role in the degradation of organic matter.
    • A hybrid training approach for leaf area index estimation via Cubist and random forests machine-learning

      McCabe, Matthew; McCabe, Matthew (ISPRS Journal of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing, Elsevier BV, 2017-12-06) [Article]
      With an increasing volume and dimensionality of Earth observation data, enhanced integration of machine-learning methodologies is needed to effectively analyze and utilize these information rich datasets. In machine-learning, a training dataset is required to establish explicit associations between a suite of explanatory ‘predictor’ variables and the target property. The specifics of this learning process can significantly influence model validity and portability, with a higher generalization level expected with an increasing number of observable conditions being reflected in the training dataset. Here we propose a hybrid training approach for leaf area index (LAI) estimation, which harnesses synergistic attributes of scattered in-situ measurements and systematically distributed physically based model inversion results to enhance the information content and spatial representativeness of the training data. To do this, a complimentary training dataset of independent LAI was derived from a regularized model inversion of RapidEye surface reflectances and subsequently used to guide the development of LAI regression models via Cubist and random forests (RF) decision tree methods. The application of the hybrid training approach to a broad set of Landsat 8 vegetation index (VI) predictor variables resulted in significantly improved LAI prediction accuracies and spatial consistencies, relative to results relying on in-situ measurements alone for model training. In comparing the prediction capacity and portability of the two machine-learning algorithms, a pair of relatively simple multi-variate regression models established by Cubist performed best, with an overall relative mean absolute deviation (rMAD) of ∼11%, determined based on a stringent scene-specific cross-validation approach. In comparison, the portability of RF regression models was less effective (i.e., an overall rMAD of ∼15%), which was attributed partly to model saturation at high LAI in association with inherent extrapolation and transferability limitations. Explanatory VIs formed from bands in the near-infrared (NIR) and shortwave infrared domains (e.g., NDWI) were associated with the highest predictive ability, whereas Cubist models relying entirely on VIs based on NIR and red band combinations (e.g., NDVI) were associated with comparatively high uncertainties (i.e., rMAD ∼21%). The most transferable and best performing models were based on combinations of several predictor variables, which included both NDWI- and NDVI-like variables. In this process, prior screening of input VIs based on an assessment of variable relevance served as an effective mechanism for optimizing prediction accuracies from both Cubist and RF. While this study demonstrated benefit in combining data mining operations with physically based constraints via a hybrid training approach, the concept of transferability and portability warrants further investigations in order to realize the full potential of emerging machine-learning techniques for regression purposes.
    • Using GeoEye-1 Imagery for Multi-Temporal Object-Based Detection of Canegrub Damage in Sugarcane Fields in Queensland, Australia

      Johansen, Kasper; Sallam, Nader; Robson, Andrew; Samson, Peter; Chandler, Keith; Derby, Lisa; Eaton, Allen; Jennings, Jillian (GIScience & Remote Sensing, Informa UK Limited, 2017-12-18) [Article]
      The greyback canegrub (Dermolepida albohirtum) is the main pest of sugarcane crops in all cane-growing regions between Mossman (16.5°S) and Sarina (21.5°S) in Queensland, Australia. In previous years, high infestations have cost the industry up to $40 million. However, identifying damage in the field is difficult due to the often impenetrable nature of the sugarcane crop. Satellite imagery offers a feasible means of achieving this by examining the visual characteristics of stool tipping, changed leaf color, and exposure of soil in damaged areas. The objective of this study was to use geographic object-based image analysis (GEOBIA) and high-spatial resolution GeoEye-1 satellite imagery for three years to map canegrub damage and develop two mapping approaches suitable for risk mapping. The GEOBIA mapping approach for canegrub damage detection was evaluated over three selected study sites in Queensland, covering a total of 254 km2 and included five main steps developed in the eCognition Developer software. These included: (1) initial segmentation of sugarcane block boundaries; (2) classification and subsequent omission of fallow/harvested fields, tracks, and other non-sugarcane features within the block boundaries; (3) identification of likely canegrub-damaged areas with low NDVI values and high levels of image texture within each block; (4) the further refining of canegrub damaged areas to low, medium, and high likelihood; and (5) risk classification. The validation based on field observations of canegrub damage at the time of the satellite image capture yielded producer’s accuracies between 75% and 98.7%, depending on the study site. Error of commission occurred in some cases due to sprawling, drainage issues, wind, weed, and pig damage. The two developed risk mapping approaches were based on the results of the canegrub damage detection. This research will improve decision making by growers affected by canegrub damage.
    • Transcriptional analysis and molecular dynamics simulations reveal the mechanism of toxic metals removal and efflux pumps in Lysinibacillus sphaericus OT4b.31

      Shaw, Dario Rangel; Dussan, Jenny (International Biodeterioration & Biodegradation, Elsevier BV, 2017-11-23) [Article]
      Lysinibacillus sphaericus strain OT4b.31 is a bacterium widely applied in bioremediation processes of hydrocarbon and metal polluted environments. In this study, we identified the molecular mechanism underlying the Pb2+ and Cr6+ resistance. Metal uptake and temporal transcription patterns of metal resistance operons were evaluated using reverse-transcribed quantitative PCR amplification. The function of the resistance determinants was studied applying docking and in silico mutagenesis methods. The results revealed that the adaptation of Lysinibacillus sphaericus OT4b.31 to elevated levels of lead and chromium involves the pbr and chr operons which comprise a transcriptional regulatory component (pbrR and chrB) and efflux ATPases (pbrA and chrA) to expel ions from the cytoplasm. Expression of metal resistance genes was constitutive and specifically inducible to the exposure of Pb2+ and Cr6+. The simultaneous presence of cations didn't affect the bioaccumulation of metals, evidencing the multimetal resistance of L. sphaericus. Docking analysis revealed the key metal-protein interactions and the conformational changes after metal or ATP binding. Results showed that residues with aromatic rings or imidazole in the catalytic domain are crucial for metal binding and achievement of the function. To our knowledge, this is the first report of a specific mechanism for lead and chromium resistance in Lysinibacillus genus. From the findings of this study, it is possible to suggest the bacterium as a suitable candidate for rapid toxic metals bioremediation processes.