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Organic Waste Life Cycle Systems

In 2019, the National Science Foundation awarded funding to Ohio University and its partners for a multidisciplinary project entitled “Organic Waste Life Cycles at the Interface of Food, Energy, and Water Systems (OWL-FEWS)”. The funding enables faculty, staff, and student researchers from Ohio University’s Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Service, in partnership with the Russ College of Engineering and Technology and Florida Institute of Technology, to explore the interactions between food, water, energy, and waste systems through new technologies, systems design, and policy tools to better serve community economic needs while improving the environment.

Note: With the move of PI Derek Kauneckis from Ohio University to the Desert Research Institute (DRI) at the University of Nevada, Reno in 2020, DRI serves as the lead institution for this project as of early 2021.

The interdisciplinary work convenes the following project team’s expertise:

  • Dr. Derek Kauneckis, Principal Investigator, Associate Research Professor, Desert Research Institute. Dr. Kauneckis’ research examines the mix of policy mechanisms and behavior that leads to change in organic waste management. Dr. Kauneckis’ expertise is in public policy and complex multiple level systems. His research is examining organic waste policy innovation hubs across the country, how information cues influence behavior around waste, and the integration of social sciences with smart waste technology system design.
  • Dr. Sarah C. Davis, Associate Professor, OHIO Voinovich School. Dr. Davis’ research expertise is in energy bioscience, ecosystem ecology, nutrient cycling, and plant physiology. Her research group is characterizing the chemical composition of food waste streams and assessing the fuel and nutrient yields from anaerobic digestion of different food waste compositions.
  • Dr. Natalie Kruse Daniels, Professor, Environmental Studies, OHIO Voinovich School. Dr. Kruse Daniels’ research expertise is in watershed characterization, mine water treatment, watershed-scale planning, and stream restoration. Her laboratory is testing the use of hydrochar made from organic waste materials as a water treatment media for metal-rich mine water and the potential to use the spent water treatment media as a soil amendment.
  • Dr. Toufiq Reza, Assistant Professor, Chemical Engineering, Department of Biomedical and Chemical Engineering and Sciences, Florida Institute of Technology. The Reza Research Group is performing two major tasks in this project, including studying carbon capture and biogas upgrading by molecular simulation and closely-knit experiments, and converting digestate into activated hydrochar by thermochemical conversion.
  • Dr. Jay Wilhelm, Assistant Professor, Mechanical Engineering, OHIO Russ College of Engineering and Technology. Dr. Wilhelm has research expertise in smart sensor systems, autonomy, RFID embedded sensing, wildlife behavior monitoring, and intelligent systems. His work involves instrumenting a compost bin to detect the state of decay and estimate if any non-biological substances have been deposited such that post-processing of organic waste can be custom tailored for maximum breakdown.

To learn more about the project, contact Dr. Derek Kauneckis or Dr. Sarah Davis.

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 2123495.


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