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.

Area(s) 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 (renewable and fossil)
  • Environmental technologies and related services

Name of specialized lab

Name of equipment in use

Description of function

Advanced Anaerobic Digestion Facility

New Brunswick Scientific Bioflo® Fermentors (7.5 L volume) with BioCommand® Software

Automated 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 Detector

Reactor headspace analysis for quantification of odour causing volatile sulphur compounds and volatile fatty acids in digesters


Agilent 7820A Gas Chromatograph with Thermal Conductivity Detector

Reactor headspace biogas composition analysis (CH4, CO2, N2, O2, H2) and nitrogen species (NH3, N2O)


Ethos EZ Microwave Digestion Station with 12 Pressure Sealed Vessels

Microwave 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 Homogenizer

Destruction of microbial cells in wastewater/biosolids samples at high pressures (500-30,000 psi, flow rate of 3 L/hr)


Astoria-Pacific 2- Channel AutoAnalyzer

Nutrient analysis in water, wastewater and biosolids samples


Bio-Tek Synergy HT Multi-detection Multi-plate Reader/Spectrophotometer

Absorbance, fluorescence and luminescence reading capability for samples volumes between 120 µL-4 mL


IDEXX Quanti-Tray Sealer/Colilert 24

Total coliform and E.coli counting for wastewater and sludge samples


Sorvall Legend XT Macro-centrifuge

Liquid/solid separation


Metter Toledo Top Loading and Analytical Balances

Gravimetric analysis


Fann Capillary Suction Timer

Dewaterability analysis for wastewater and sludge samples


Fume hood


Particle Sizing, Zeta Potential and Imaging Facility

BrightWELL DPA 4100 Micro-flow Microscope System

Particle size, shape, count and image analysis (0.75-300 µm)


Malvern Mastersizer 3000/Hydro LV and Aero S Modules

Particle sizing in both liquid and solid samples (0.01-3500 µm)


Malvern Zetasizer Nano ZS-NIB/Autotitrator for chemical dose optimization

Particle 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 Facility

Heidolph Hei-Vap Rotary Evaporator

Solvent extraction of micropollutants from wastewater or sludge matrix


Waters Acquity UPLC I-Class Liquid Chromatograph with Waters Xevo-TQD Triple Quadrupole Mass Spectrometer

Detection 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”


Castanet.net, “Federal funds for strategic engineering research at UBC’s Okanagan Campus”


City of Kelowna, News Release, “UBCO, City work on biosolid energy research”


UBC Public affairs, “UBC Okanagan Researcher Wants to Turn Waste into Renewable Energy”