PSU CEE New Smart Bioreactor: New Capability for Advanced Research on Removing Phosphorus and Nitrogen from Wastewater
Author: CEE
Posted: December 23, 2017

At AWWA’s Water Quality Technology Conference in  Portland, OR, November 2017, PSU Ph.D. graduate student Bashar Al- Daomi unveiled a new smart bioreactor he and Dr. Bill Fish have created. Microbes can do a great job of removing phosphorus and nitrogen pollutants from wastewater if we can design a perfect collaboration between lab researchers, wastewater treatment plant operators and microbes. This collaboration provides us a better understanding of microbial metabolism while we support microbes with optimal life conditions (air, nutrients, organic carbon, temperature, pH, etc). In the Water Quality Lab of Dr. Bill Fish, PSU Ph.D. graduate student Bashar Al-Daomi stepped up to the challenge to develop a smart, simple, reliable, and efficient reactor to simulate and model actual advanced wastewater treatment processes.

A photo of PSU CEE BioreactorBashar, working with technical assistance, created this sophisticated, automated research reactor at a reasonable cost and way cheaper than commercial bioreactors on the market. This lab reactor is smart since it operates itself automatically based on using timers, sensors, and controllers connected together in one unit. This unit helps to control and adjust pH and dissolved oxygen measurements to match with different microbial needs. It also collects accurate lab data and builds a trustable database for developing bio-mathematical models.

Bioreactor Applications (Research goals) 

  • This unit can be used to simulate microbial processes and optimize the metabolisms of organisms that are vital in waste treatment, such phosphorus accumulative organisms PAOs, glycogen accumulative organisms GAOs, and ammonium oxidation bacteria AOB.
  • Can ue process technology and automated control in this system to optimize the consumption of oxygen which is often the most expensive cost in wastewater treatment. 
  • Also, this system aims to develop biological and mathematical models for temperature control, bacterial growth rate, pH control, efficient organic carbon consumption. 
  • Another main goal of this system is to combine EBPR technology with Annamox technology in one system by maintaining NH3/NH4 not oxidized at low DO as EBPR effluent (phosphorus removal system) combining with an anoxic reactor that already has nitrite to create anammox bacteria. This process aims to remove nitrogen with less organic carbon (acetate or ethanol) and oxygen consumption.

Lab Bioreactor Components:

  • A 5-liter jacketed glass reactor, 
  • pH sensor, controller (high, low pH)
  • 2 pumps, acid and alkaline
  • Dissolved oxygen sensor and controller
  • Air blower
  • Oxygen pump
  • Temperature sensor 
  • Oxygen Reduction Potential (ORP) sensor 
  • Adjustable float level sensor
  • Adjustable timer/duration agitation, 
  • Digital Stirrer
  • Fine air diffuser
  • Sludge drain valve 
  • Organic carbon solution (substrate) injection syringe, 
  • Control unit and sensors and diffuser plastic support (wiring and 3D plastic printing were made by hiring an external technician).


  • No complicated programming is required and high-resolution operational screen is clear and easy to navigate,
  • Reporting flexibility (data can be saved and emailed),
  • Stand-alone and computer sensor interface with a touch screen
  • Compatible with all Vernier sensors
  • Compatible with Windows and Macintosh computers
  • Collect, analyze, and share sensor data wirelessly with iPad, and Android devices


 Partial financial support for this work was provided by the MoHESR and PNWS-AWWA scholarships and Beta project grant.