A new energy efficient method for the removal of nitrogen for wastewater management and engineered wetlands

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A new energy efficient method for the removal of nitrogen for wastewater management and engineered wetlands  

Princeton Docket # 13-2918


Researchers in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Princeton University, have identified a new microorganism that is responsible for the Feammox process.


Virtually all wastewater treatment plants in the developed world as well as in many developing countries oxidize NH4+ to NO3- before discharging the treated wastewater. This is done to decrease oxygen demand in the receiving waters. Biological ammonium oxidation is conducted by aerobic nitrifying bacteria and requires aeration the step with the highest energy input in wastewater treatment plants. An alternative is the partial nitrification Anammox system, which has been implemented in some treatment plants over the past 15 years, with the goal of saving energy costs, since only half of the NH4+ is converted to NO2- aerobically. However these Aanammox based wastewater treatment systems need to operate between 28 C and 35 C.


In contrast research at Princeton has shown that the Feammox process is still active below 10C, potentially providing further energy savings, by requiring no aeration or heating of the wastewater in temperate climates, however the cost of an Fe(III) source would have to be taken into account. 


Additionally nitrogen excess in near shore environments has been identified as a major environmental problem leading to eutrophication and anoxia (Chesapeake, Gulf of Mexico, etc.). Therefore legislations are being implemented requiring the conversion of NO3- to N2 in conventional waste water treatment plants. Potentially the Feammox process could achieve N removal in single stage reactors with low energy utilization.


State of Research


To date since biologists have been unable to isolate the Anammox bacterium, no improved engineered Anammox bacterium has been developed or is likely to be developed.  However the isolation of the Feammox bacteria provides the possibility of an improved Feammox bacterium.   Further work is focused on engineering an optimized Feammox bacterium for developing a novel wastewater treatment technology. Princeton is currently seeking to identify appropriate partners for the further development and commercialization of this opportunity.




Huang, S., and P.R. Jaffe, 2013. A newly identified microorganism affecting the N cycle: Ammonium oxidation in Mineralogical Magazine, 77(5) 1339.

Huang, S., and P.R. Jaffé, “Characterization of a Novel Actinobacteria Species Capable to Oxidize Ammonium under Iron Reducing Conditions,” in preparation.




Professor Peter R. Jaffé

Peter R. Jaffé is Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Associate Director for Research of the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment at Princeton University. He was Chair of the department of Civil and Environmental Engineering from 1999 to 2005. His background is in chemical engineering, and he obtained a Ph.D. in Environmental and Water Resources Engineering from Vanderbilt University in 1981. He held the position of Research Associate in the Department of Civil Engineering at Princeton University from 1982 to 1983, and was a faculty member at the Universidad Simón Bolívar in Venezuela from 1983 to 1985. He joined the faculty of the Department of Civil Engineering at Princeton University in 1985, and was department chair from 1999 to 2005. He held visiting positions at the Venezuelan Research Institute and the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Austria. He has served on numerous committees and panels, including the National Research Council, EPA, NIH, NSF, and DOE.

His research interests relate to the physical, chemical, and biological processes that govern the transport and transformation of pollutants in the environment, and their application towards the remediation of contaminated systems. Areas of current emphasis include: (1) biological and chemical processes in porous media; (2) simulation and analysis at the watershed scale of soil contamination processes; and (3) dynamics of trace metals and radionuclides in sediments, wetland soils, and groundwater.





Shan Huang

Shan Huang is a postdoctoral research associate in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Princeton University. Her research focus is ammonium oxidation in oxygen limited wetland environments, using Ferric Iron as an electron acceptor. Shan received her Ph.D. in Environmental Biotechnology from Sun Yat-Sen University, China in 2011. Shan has worked on denitrification functional genes in estuarine sediments and ANAMMOX treatment of ammonium-rich wastewater during her PhD and published a number of research papers on these subjects.



Intellectual Property status

 Patent protection is pending.







Laurie Tzodikov

Princeton University Office of Technology Licensing • (609) 258-7256• tzodikov@princeton.edu

PU #13-2918

Patent Information:
For Information, Contact:
Prabhpreet Gill
Licensing Associate
Princeton University
Peter Jaffe
Shan Huang
wastewater management