The Water, Energy and Soil Sustainability (WESS) program was created by HNEI researchers in 2011 to attract/guide the integrated effort of all University of Hawaii (UH) Manoa faculty, Hawaii industry, State government, venture capital, legal/regulatory authorities, and the private sector to pursue collaborative projects providing for water, energy, and soil sustainability in Hawaii.
HNEI researchers investigated the performance and durability of novel carbon based biofilm supports to support active methanogenic microbial communities. Using DNA based community analysis the project verified wood derived biochar to host biofilms possessing well-balanced methanogenic microbial communities that realized high digestion rates under anaerobic conditions. HNEI researchers then investigated the performance and durability of a hybrid high rate anaerobic-aerobic digestion (HRAAD) system operated at demonstration scale in an existing wastewater treatment facility.
HNEI researchers investigated multi-component extraction of bio-oils, protein, fermentatable sugars, and high value metabolites from oil-bearing biomass using ionic liquid based solvents. The patented process was verified to support multi-component extraction of bio-oils, high value chemicals, and fermentable sugars that supported heterotrophic high-density growth of oil-bearing yeast.
HNEI researchers investigated the efficacy of microbial fuels cells for a variety of applications. To treat wastewater, a flow through microbial fuel cell was linked downstream from an anaerobic digester. Results showed the development of functionalized biofilms were possible under non-sterile environments and digestion rates that suggested microbial fuels to perform well as a polishing unit supporting anaerobic digestion. HNEI researchers also investigated enzymatic biocatalysts to convert chemical energy directly into electricity as a power source.