Harnessing Microbial Batteries for Efficient, Sustainable Water Treatment and Recycling in Rural Areas

Lead PI: Benjamin C Bostick , Dr. Steven N. Chillrud , Daniel Steingart , Marcia O'Leary, Henning Prommer, James Martin Byrne

Unit Affiliation: Geochemistry, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO)

October 2021 - September 2025
Europe ; Australia ; Australia ; United Kingdom
Project Type: Research

DESCRIPTION: Most commercially available technology for water treatment are large-scale treatment systems that use a series of distinct steps with different to remove specific contaminants. Often, water treatment efficacy is limited because contaminants are ineffectively removed by a single treatment media, particularly when the media is saturated or when there are multiple contaminants with different adsorption properties. In many rural areas, the limitations of treatment are even more severe, with most households depending on private and unregulated wells for their water, and few treating wastewater in any way. As a result, residents are exposed to contaminants and the water is essentially not recycled despite high production, treatment and environmental costs. The proposed research proposes a novel and unique method of generating iron sorption coagulation media from a microbial battery. The iron oxyhydroxide media produced through this process is generated continuously and recycled, allowing for long-term and improved water treatment, sustainability and ease-of-use. This approach takes advantage of common groundwater constituents like Fe, and microbial populations to generate and recycle iron media for removal of arsenic and uranium. The proposed work focuses on rural Native American communities that are extensively impacted by ground and surface water contamination, and works with those communities to develop, optimize and pilot this potential remediation method through field trials. This scalable approach takes advantage of the thermodynamic disequilibrium inherent in the aqueous composition of the input water to generate the media, lowering energy costs and maintenance, improving system performance, and making water treatment more affordable. It then works with those communities to develop and commercialize this remediation technology.


Department of Energy




Missouri Breaks Industries, University of Western Australia, University of Bristol