UBC Bioreactor Technology Group

The University of British Columbia, Kelowna, British Columbia
What the facility does

Wastewater and biosolids treatment, Advanced anaerobic digestion for enhanced energy and nutrient recovery. Facilities operated by a group: Advanced Anaerobic Digestion Facility; Particle Sizing, Zeta Potential and Imaging Facility; Micropollutant Detection Facility.

Areas of expertise

We collaborate with government agencies, municipalities, industries and researchers within UBC and other institutions with an ultimate goal of waste reduction and resource recovery. We operate three CFI/BCKDF-, NSERC- and UBC-funded facilities. The Advanced Anaerobic Digestion Facility focuses on maximizing waste to biogas (methane, bio-hydrogen) conversion through emerging pretreatments. Bench-scale thermal (microwave, radio frequency and conventional heating), high-pressure homogenization and ultrasonic waste disintegration techniques are evaluated to enhance the extent of the biodegradation in advanced anaerobic digesters that require smaller volume/footprint. Secondary objective: to produce digested biosolids in compliance with the Organic Matter Recycling and Reuse and Canadian Food Inspection Agency fertilizer regulations (concerning pathogenic microorganisms and heavy metals) for reuse as soil amendment. We culture microorganisms and evaluate biogas quantity and quality, including odour causing compounds and explore links among particle size distribution, zeta potential and biodegradability of waste samples. We also work to detect quantitation of contaminants of emerging concern (i.e. personal care products, hormones, pharmaceuticals, antimicrobials, and pesticides). State of the art infrastructure combined with a variety of sample preparation and extraction technique provide low detection limits in sample types ranging from fresh water, wastewater, biosolids and other industrial and agricultural wastes. 

Research services
  • Bench-scale bioreactor testing,
  • Boreactor design for wastewater and sludge treatment,
  • Biochemical methane potential (BMP) and biochemical hydrogen potential (BHP) assays,
  • Anammox process for side-stream treatment,
  • Analytical services for waste characterization/particle sizing/zeta potential/chemical dose optimization,
  • Biogas composition analysis,
  • Analysis of odourous sulfur compounds in ambient air and biogas
Sectors of application
  • Agriculture, animal science and food
  • Clean technology
  • Education
  • Energy
  • Environmental technologies and related services
Specialized labEquipmentFunction
Advanced Anaerobic Digestion FacilityNew Brunswick Scientific Bioflo® Fermentors (7.5 L volume) with BioCommand® SoftwareAutomated fermentation of organic waste samples for treatment and bioenergy generation
 New Brunswick Innova 44R Incubator/Shakers-20oC below ambient to 80oC temperature control within ± 0.1oC
 Thermotron S-1.5-3200 Temperature Chamber-73oC to 180oC temperature control within ± 1.1oC
 Agilent 7890A Gas Chromatograph with Flame Ionization Detector and Sulfur Chemiluminescence DetectorReactor headspace analysis for quantification of odour causing volatile sulphur compounds and volatile fatty acids in digesters
 Agilent 7820A Gas Chromatograph with Thermal Conductivity DetectorReactor headspace biogas composition analysis (CH4, CO2, N2, O2, H2) and nitrogen species (NH3, N2O)
 Ethos EZ Microwave Digestion Station with 12 Pressure Sealed VesselsMicrowave heating of samples at high temperature and pressure (1200W, 2450 MHz, 300oC, 35 bars) for waste disintegration
 Ultrasonic Dismembrator with Sound Proof Cabinet 
 Avestin EmulsiFlex C3 High Pressure HomogenizerDestruction of microbial cells in wastewater/biosolids samples at high pressures (500-30,000 psi, flow rate of 3 L/hr)
 Astoria-Pacific 2- Channel AutoAnalyzerNutrient analysis in water, wastewater and biosolids samples
 Bio-Tek Synergy HT Multi-detection Multi-plate Reader/SpectrophotometerAbsorbance, fluorescence and luminescence reading capability for samples volumes between 120 µL-4 mL
 IDEXX Quanti-Tray Sealer/Colilert 24Total coliform and E.coli counting for wastewater and sludge samples
 Sorvall Legend XT Macro-centrifugeLiquid/solid separation
 Metter Toledo Top Loading and Analytical BalancesGravimetric analysis
 Fann Capillary Suction TimerDewaterability analysis for wastewater and sludge samples
 Fume hood 
Particle Sizing, Zeta Potential and Imaging FacilityBrightWELL DPA 4100 Micro-flow Microscope SystemParticle size, shape, count and image analysis (0.75-300 µm)
 Malvern Mastersizer 3000/Hydro LV and Aero S ModulesParticle sizing in both liquid and solid samples (0.01-3500 µm)
 Malvern Zetasizer Nano ZS-NIB/Autotitrator for chemical dose optimizationParticle sizing (0.3 nm -10 µm), molecular weight (342 - 2 x 107Da) and zeta potential (3.8 nm -100 µm) in both liquid and solid samples 
Micropollutant Detection FacilityHeidolph Hei-Vap Rotary EvaporatorSolvent extraction of micropollutants from wastewater or sludge matrix
 Waters Acquity UPLC I-Class Liquid Chromatograph with Waters Xevo-TQD Triple Quadrupole Mass SpectrometerDetection and quantification of contaminants of emerging concern
  • City of Kelowna
  • Regional District of Central Okanagan (RDCO)
  • Metro Vancouver
  • BC Ministry of Environment
  • Paradigm Environmental Technologies Inc.
  • CH Four Biogas Inc.
  • Opus DaytonKnight Consultants Ltd.
  • Sun-Rype Products Ltd.
  • FortisBC
  • Quesnel River Pulp Co.
  • Urban Systems
UBC Ingenuity 2012, “Harvesting energy from sludge”http://engineering.ubc.ca/sites/apsc.ubc.ca/files/Ingenuity_SS2012%20-%20single%20pages_s.pdf
Castanet.net, “Federal funds for strategic engineering research at UBC’s Okanagan Campus”http://www.castanet.net/news/Campus-Life/59645/Federal-funds-for-strategic-engineering-research-at-UBC-s-Okanagan-campus
City of Kelowna, News Release, “UBCO, City work on biosolid energy research”http://www.castanet.net/news/Kelowna/58796/UBCO-City-do-biosolid-energy-research
UBC Public affairs, “UBC Okanagan Researcher Wants to Turn Waste into Renewable Energy”http://www.publicaffairs.ubc.ca/2010/03/04/ubc-okanagan-researcher-wants-to-turn-waste-into-renewable-energy/