Chibambila Simbeye: PhD candidate to continue the group’s work on alkaline dehydration of human urine

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Hello! My name is Chibambila Simbeye, and I am thrilled to introduce myself as a new member of the SLU Urine Research Group. I hail from Chingola, a small mining town in the Copperbelt province of Zambia. My background is in civil engineering. I hold both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in this field, with my master’s focusing on water engineering. For my master’s thesis, I explored the recovery of phosphorus from human urine in the form of vivianite. This further fueled my interest and passion for innovative sanitation solutions.

At SLU, my research will focus on developing alkaline urine dehydration technology for decentralized sanitation systems. I am optimistic that the results of my research will be adopted and implemented to improve sanitation practices around the world. If you have an interest in urine treatment or water and sanitation, I would love to exchange ideas with you.

Why do I do what I do? I firmly believe that access to sanitation is a basic human right that remains unfulfilled in many parts of the world, particularly in developing countries. Urban sprawl has led to the growth of large unplanned settlements where traditional centralized sanitation systems are often unfeasible. I am convinced that decentralized systems, which incorporate source separation, are the key to addressing these challenges sustainably. To achieve this, we need to understand how to manage each waste fraction effectively, with urine being a crucial component.

In addition to my academic pursuits, I am a computing tech enthusiast and an avid fan of competitive sports, especially football and I am always up for a football discussion. I also like to play chess occasionally, so feel free to reach out if you’d like to have a game!

Looking forward to connecting with you all and contributing to the exciting work happening at SLU.

Kale Bwangu! (Direct translation: long ago fast, Meaning: Already done and used a confident salute for mutual understanding)

 

 

Christoffer Parrow Melhus: PhD candidate working on precipitation issues in urine collecting sanitation systems

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My name is Christoffer and I started working here in September 2023 as a PhD student. The field of research I work in is turning urine from urine diverting toilets into a dehydrated, commercial fertilizer. Urine diverting toilets commonly have problems with precipitation forming, clogging the pipes. The scope of my research is to investigate this process and come up with solutions so that the pipes can easily be kept clean, which would open up for wider implementation of those toilets.

My background is in Environment & Water Engineering, which I studied here in Uppsala, my home town. I have been interested in research my whole life, and wanted to become a PhD student for as long as I knew of the concept. I am very curious and am at my happiest when I get to perform experiments and analyse the results.

Apart from research, my interests are many and varied. I sing and play a lot, both choir music as well as traditional Scandinavian & Celtic folk music. I nourish a passion for nature and love to go hiking. I am also very interested in languages, different cultures and history, and frequently discuss those topics with people from other countries as well as other swedes, preferably over a fika!

Rethinking “Green” Ammonia: a commentary article in BMC Environmental Science

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In a recent article published in BMC Environmental Science, Prithvi Simha and Gert van der Merwe argue that the term “green” ammonia is misleading, inaccurate, and overly simplistic.

Both brown ammonia and “green” ammonia are produced using the Haber-Bosch process. While brown ammonia is made using hydrogen extracted from fossil fuels, green ammonia uses hydrogen derived from renewable energy-powered electrolysis of water, thereby “greening” and decarbonizing ammonia synthesis. However, the nitrogen needed for Haber-Bosch ammonia synthesis is extracted from the atmosphere, an energy-intensive process that remains fundamentally linear for both types of ammonia. This anthropogenic nitrogen extraction has nearly doubled global nitrogen fixation, and already pushed the biogeochemical cycle of nitrogen beyond its safe planetary boundary.

Decarbonizing the global economy is essential, but focusing solely on reducing carbon emissions is shortsighted. To truly merit a green label, we argue that the fertilizer industry must adopt a planetary boundaries framework that extends beyond the current industry focus on merely offsetting or reducing carbon emissions from fertiliser production. The industry has a significant impact on nitrogen and phosphorus nutrient cycles and thus, has extended producer responsibility for minimising the environmental impacts of its products.

We think that the fertiliser industry should strive for creating products that substantially reduce reactive nitrogen and phosphorus fluxes to ecosystems. One solution here is to engage in the large-scale production of bio-based fertilizers. For instance, recycling humanurine alone could substitute about 25% of the nitrogen and phosphate fertilisers used in agriculture globally. Such recycling could offset the demand for anthropogenic nitrogen fixation via green/brown ammonia synthesis, while aligning food systems more closely with the principles of a truly green and circular economy.

Let’s redefine what it means to be “green” by considering the full environmental impact and embracing genuinely sustainable alternatives.

Read the full article here: https://lnkd.in/dKmxCz_S

Yulia joins our advanced oxidation project

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Helloy! My name is Yulia, I’m coming from Finland, but study in Umeå University. About a year ago I finished bachelor programme in Life Sciences with specialisation in molecular biology, and now I’m studying master’s programme in chemistry. And though I’m planning to specialise in medicinal chemistry, my interests lay wide. Among them is wastewater treatment, for it’s both very important and also very interesting subject. This led me to Prithvi Simha’s research group. I’m here at SLU for a six-week internship, studying the potential of persulfate activation in urine with Ali Peter Mehaidli. Activation of persulfate will result into formation of sulphate radicals, and those in their turn will be degrading organic compounds in urine. Thus, the potential outcome of this study is to find a method of improving degradation of organic compounds in urine, while preserving nitrogen and phosphorus.

Nathanaël will investigate precipitation and blockages in urine-collecting pipes

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Hi! My name is Nathanaël, but everyone calls me Nate, so feel free to do the same. I am currently interning with the Environmental Engineering Research Group at SLU for three months, and I’ll be here until July 26th. I come from Strasbourg, France, where I attend ENGEES (National School of Water and Environmental Engineering, Strasbourg). Our focus is on all aspects of water, from the smallest water cycles to the bigger picture. Next school year will be my final year before I become an engineer. My specialty is water treatment, and I aspire to work in wastewater treatment plants or in a design office that deals with their dimensioning or startup. This interest led me to contact researcher Prithvi Simha, as I found the subject of urine separation particularly fascinating and underexplored at my school. I’m currently working and learning with PhD student Christoffer Parrow Melhus on urine collection pipes. In these pipes, urea breaks down into ammonia and carbon dioxide, leading to precipitation that can cause complete blockages. On a personal note, I enjoy discovering new things and was actively involved in student life at my school, organizing events for my peers. In my spare time, I like to go fishing to recharge my batteries.

Ariane will work with Natnael on degrading pharmaceuticals in urine

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Hello everyone! My name is Ariane and I’m from France, where I have been studying water and environmental engineering for 2 years at ENGEES in Strasbourg. I did 2 years of preparatory classes in physics and chemistry to get into this school and since then I have discovered all the issues involved in managing water to protect the environment. I also chose to specialise in water treatment. I am at SLU for a three-month internship in the urine group, where I am taking part in a study looking at how to degrade pharmaceuticals in urine to create a safe fertiliser, which will give me my first experience of research.

New book chapter on impact of substrate on BSFL rearing

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We are happy to share our new publication “Advances in substrate source composition for rearing black soldier fly larvae as a protein source“, published as a chapter of the book “Insects as alternative sources of protein for food and feed”, published by Burleigh Dodds Science Publishing

In this chapter, Cecilia and Ivã discuss some of the challenges faced by the BSF industry in relation to the feed substrates available for rearing this amazing insect species. Bioconvesion is affected by many variables and it is not easy to always have good predictability of the process and product composition combined with environmental sustainability.

We strongly believe that the real value of BSF larvae can only be extracted when waste streams are used as feed substrate (especially post-consumer waste) and when the larvae end up as feed for livestock. This, in our view, is the real path to sustainability!

 

Study visits in June

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We are not even halfway through June, and we already have two major highlights to share.

On June 5th, the Ambassador of Japan, Mr. Noke Masaki, visited us. Björn demonstrated the urine diversion toilet and explained the benefits of urine dehydration technologies. The Ambassador then came down to the BSF container, where Cecilia gave a short presentation of the technology and our research on the topic. Ivã and Viktoria then guided our visitors through the BSF lab, answering questions about the rearing and fertilising potential of the flies and their frass.

A week later, a joint delegation from Kenya-Lycksele came by for lectures from Björn and Cecilia, followed by visits to the urin diviring toilet and dehydration system, followed by a tour of the fly container, where Viktoria showed the eager participants around.

Knowing that our technologies and ideas gain international interest keeps us motivated to continue contributing to a circular society.

Study visit by EU ambassadors

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On April 23rd, representatives of the EU ambassadors came for a visit to the ET Department and had a pe[e]k at our urine diverting toilet where Björn and Prithvi talked ab   out the future of urine dehydration and the potential it harbours.

After the toilet, the visitors went on to our Black Soldier Fly container were Cecilia, in bitter cold winds, shared our vision on how to contribute to a circular food and feed production, if food waste would get accepted as a feed source for insects.

The evening ended with a dinner at the castle in Uppsala where ideas and visions for the future were exchanged.

Prithvi is now a Research Associate at the Gobabeb Namib Research Institute

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Prithvi Simha from our research group has been collaborating actively with partners in Namibia over the past three years. He has now joined the Gobabeb Namib Research Institute as a research associate/adjunct researcher. Gobabeb is a renowned center for dryland training and research located in the Namib Desert, approximately 120 kilometers southeast of Walvis Bay in Namibia. Prithvi in collaboration with Gert van der Merwe from Namibia University of Science and Technology, Eugene Marais from Gobabeb,a dn Christopher Malefors from SLU are running a joint project called “AirCloset” aimed at prototyping and evaluating a solar-thermal and wind-driven urine evaporator. Their goal is to develop a prototype evaporator that can effectively manage and utilize urine, transforming it into a valuable resource. Over the next nine months, they will pilot test the prototype evaporator at the Gobabeb Namib Research Institute. Gobabeb’s extensive weather station network and comprehensive environmental and meteorological data will play a crucial role in this phase. By leveraging these resources, they aim to gather detailed insights and refine the prototype for broader application. Stay tuned for updates on our progress and findings.