News Feature | January 14, 2018

New Research Improves Potential For Dairy Wastewater Resource Recovery

Peter Chawaga - editor

By Peter Chawaga


In 2017, society made great strides in utilizing the natural resources found in wastewater. If this recent project is any indication, 2018 will see even more efforts to do so.

Researchers at the University of Tübingen, a German institution, have developed a new process that can convert dairy wastewater byproducts into a substance that can be consumed by animals or even used as jet fuel.

“Professor Lars Angenent from the Center of Applied Geosciences at the University of Tübingen and international colleagues used microbiome cultures similar to those in the human gut,” according to a press release on the project. “The new bio-oil can be used in animal feed or, after further refinement, as a fuel for airplanes.”

As the release notes, dairy operations produce vast amounts of wastewater as they churn out milk, cheese, and yogurt. This wastewater, known as “acid whey,” is rich in organic materials but is typically costly to treat or transport to landfills where it can be reused as fertilizer.

This new process for recovering dairy wastewater was achieved by converting the sugars of one microbiome into an acid and using a second microbiome to perform “chain elongation,” creating six to nine carbons in a row.

This project marks another in what has become an increasingly popular series from researchers looking to create a more efficient society through industrial and municipal wastewater. Such a society, in which resources are used and reused in a continual loop is known as a “circular economy.”

“Only a completely circular economy can be sustainable with all energy coming from renewable sources, while carbon for chemicals is coming from waste CO2 and other carbon-rich wastes such as acid whey,” Angenent said, per the release.

To read more about reuse projects in the dairy industry visit Water Online’s Water & Wastewater Treatment For The Food & Beverage Industry Solutions Center.

Image credit: “Cow,” Steve Wake, 2013, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: