Abstract: In the face of rapid global urbanization and mounting pressures on food and water resources, reimagining municipal wastewater as a valuable resource rather than mere waste becomes imperative. This presentation emphasizes the significance of harnessing membrane-based processes to extract vital nutrients and resources from municipal wastewater, thereby fostering urban Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) and bolstering food security. Through the synergistic use of MBRs, nanofiltration, and reverse osmosis, nutrient recovery capabilities are maximized as contaminants are selectively removed, and nutrient concentrations are obtained from wastewater. The treated effluents, ideally suited for hydroponic systems, facilitate efficient and sustainable food production. To enhance the selectivity of nanofiltration membranes, various synthesis techniques have been employed to elevate solute-solute (nutrients and contaminants) separation performance. Additionally, we have developed a machine learning approach to revolutionize novel membrane design, circumventing the labor-intensive trial-and-error approach for future selective membrane fabrication. In the context of CEA for food production, we have integrated both robotics and digital twin modeling to immense potential in predicting plant productivity and nutritional content. By harnessing these cutting-edge technologies, CEA systems can be optimized, resulting in increased yield and nutrient-rich produce. In summary, integrating membrane-based processes with urban CEA practices presents an opportunity for cities to build resilience against food crises, reduce environmental impacts, and embrace circular economy principles that encourage self-sufficiency and sustainable development within urban landscapes. The adoption of these innovative practices not only addresses the pressing challenges of resource scarcity but also paves the way for a greener, more sustainable future.
Bio: Dr. Yongsheng Chen is the Bonnie W. and Charles W. Moorman IV Professor in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology and the Director of Nutrients Energy Water Center for AgTech. Professor Chen joined Georgia Institute of Technology in 2009. Professor Chen’s research interests include environmental nanotechnology, membrane technology for sustainable energy and nutrients recovery, the Food-Energy-Water Nexus, and machine learning for sustainable membrane material screening, system integration, and process optimization. He has served as PI/Co-PI on sponsored research projects totaling more than $41M, of which, $18.5M has been, or is being, spent in his laboratory. He has over 206 published research articles. He has received numerous accolades, including the CAPEES/Nanova Lifetime Achievement Award, the American Chemical Society Editor’s Award, the Georgia Institute of Technology’s Sustained Research Award and Multidisciplinary Research Award, Sigma Xi Best Ph.D. Student Dissertation Advisor Award, and AEESP Outstanding Ph.D. Student Advisor Award. His work has been recognized by more than 20 national and international media outlets including Forbes, C&EN, AEESP, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC), and Water Environment Federation.