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Maggie White

Harnessing microbially mediated redox processes for sustainable water treatment.


Project supervisors

"Dr Anke Neumann

Dr James Kitson

Project description

The international community is under considerable pressure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This reduction forms a part of climate change mitigation strategies. The development of low carbon footprint, sustainable technologies is critical. These technologies are essential for humanity’s adaptation to our changing climate.

The UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG6) aims to achieve universal access to safe and affordable drinking water for all by 2030. The need for low cost and sustainable global (waste)water treatment systems has rapidly become more urgent.

This project will use an interdisciplinary approach. It will exploit the natural interaction of iron-rich sedimentary minerals with indigenous microbial communities. This will enable us to treat (waste) water via advanced oxidation processes (AOPs) and remove target pollutants, at very low cost. These coupled biogeochemical processes can occur in isolation in the laboratory. But t is not yet clear whether this potentially dynamic system is able to self-regenerate. This would be necessary for it to perform effective treatment of water pollutants over several oxidation-reduction (redox) cycles under realistic environmental conditions.

We will provide proof of concept for this water treatment system. To do this, we will carry out laboratory mesocosm experiments. We will use different combinations of iron-rich clay minerals and naturally occurring redox-active sediments. This will include in-situ indigenous microbiology. We will use selected organic probes, representative of target pollutants. We will adjust water flow and oxygen saturation over time. This will simulate successive redox cycles that would occur in the natural environment. By doing this, we will gauge the overall success of the treatment process.

We are using combined geochemical, engineering, microbiological and ecological methods. The results from mesocosm experiments will determine whether this novel water treatment system can be:

  • implemented at field scale
  • operated sustainably and efficiently

Using ecological and physicochemical indicators, we will:

  • develop a low-cost tool to monitor the performance of engineered water treatment systems
  • assess the natural capital of redox-cycling sediments



Anything outdoors!


  • BSc (Hons) Geology – University of Manchester