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Research and development

Systematic development to realize sustainable solutions

Ecomotive AS is a research-driven company. Ever since the company was established in 2006, we have collaborated with the Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU) and operated a test laboratory on their premises. We are also currently collaborating with a number of other research institutions. We have an overall vision that provides guidance on which types of research projects we initiate. The icons below show the various projects that are ongoing as of right now.

The vision of a water cycle and an energy cycle. As the various projects provide new knowledge, the vision will develop accordingly.

The vision of a water cycle and an energy cycle. As the various projects provide new knowledge, the vision will develop accordingly.


Research projects at Ecomotive


Reuse of gray water

Further development of gray water treatment plants that can handle gray water for up to 50 people a day. The prototype of the plant design, called A03, has been subjected to full scale testing at NMBU, where a student dormitory is connected to the treatment plant. The results indicate that the performance of the A03 design is good, meeting the minimum requirements for BOD, COD, total phosphorus and TSS. Removal of E. coli is also more effective compared to the existing A02 plant, which has been on the market for several years.

Test report (Norwegian): Ecomotive A03 renseanlegg for gråvann - internrapport 2016


Increased greenhouse gases in sewers

One experiment showed a sharp increase in nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions with a greater proportion of black water in the sewage. The greenhouse gas effect of N2O is suspected of being 300 times more powerful than that of CO2, and is also thought to be involved in the decomposition of stratospheric ozone. Daniel Todt of Ecomotive AS therefore proposed converting the organic matter into biogas and reusing it as energy and fertilizer, rather than using today's biofilm solutions that contribute to the production of nitrous oxide.

PhD results (Norwegian): Kildeseparerende sanitærsystemer - minimering av energiforbruk og lystgassutslipp ved biologisk rensing av svartvann

Increasing growth with urine

An ongoing master's degree project has shown that salads grow faster and thrive better with increased amounts of concentrated urine, because of better access to phosphorus and nitrogen.

The findings are exciting with respect to finding a future solution to today's increasing phosphorus deficiency. Phosphorus is an important ingredient for cultivating soil. With today's exponential population growth, access to sufficient amounts of phosphorus will be essential to meeting the future need for food production.

We have not yet investigated whether this method introduces health risks.


Black water treatment

In his PhD work, Melesse Eshetu is going to produce scientific documentation for the next generation of source-separating wastewater systems. The goal is to treat the black water locally, instead of collecting it in tanks or transporting it in a sewer system. We will accomplish this by optimizing a blackwater treatment reactor and integrating it into a source-separated wastewater system. Solutions for post-treatment polishing and disinfecting of reactor effluent must also be developed. Furthermore, the potential for reuse of water and nutrients must be identified and risks/benefits for such reuse should be analyzed.

If successful, blackwater could be treated and released locally on-site, as is currently the case with gray water in the Ecomotive A02 plant. This will be a significant step forward for our decentralized wastewater systems, which currently either collect sewage (closed tank) or compost it following a liquid strainer stage (composting tank).

Melesse's PhD position will last for three years, until 1 October 2018. Daniel Todt (Ecomotive AS) is the project manager/mentor and Arve Heistad (NMBU) is the main supervisor.


A desire for sustainable use of resources

Water as a resource

The idea of ustainability is simply not to consume more than our environment can tolerate, neither short term nor long term. This will be even more important in the future, since we know that millions of people in countries such as India and China will soon make the transition from poor or working class, to middle class – with increased use of resources as a result. It is very encouraging that large populations get out of poverty, but this development also brings with it great challenges related to water supply and sewerage infrastructure.

A three-way solution based on sustainable principles can reduce these challenges significantly:

  • We need to use the water resources available in the environment around us with sense. Clean drinking water is one of the few things humans can not do without. So it is of course very important that we are able to reduce water consumption.
  • We must also facilitate the reuse of water so that it is not only used once after we remove it from the natural cycle for human consumption or use.
  • And we must ensure that water, having been used for various purposes, is treated so that it can be purified in the simplest possible way before being released back into the natural cycle. We achieve this through source separation, by separating toilet waste from other wastewater (greywater) and treating the greywater locally. This is a way of thinking that Ecomotive AS is pushing for.

Utilization of waste products

Sewage has traditionally been seen as a problem: disgusting, smelly, infectious, and at worst deadly when transmitting certain diseases. But sewage is also energy, and contains valuable nutrients. Sewage from source-separating wastewater systems is of particular value, since it has not been diluted by other types of wastewater (greywater). If vacuum toilets or other water-saving toilets are also used in such a source-separating wastewater system, the concentration of energy and nutrients will be even higher.

Sewage and waste is therefore a valuable resource:

  • We can use the concentrated waste to produce biogas, which is a commercially useful source of energy. This is already being done by using the sewage from vacuum toilets (which provide extra concentrated sewage with minimal vannutspedning) mixed with kitchen waste as an energy source in biogas plants.
  • We need valuable substances such as phosphorus and nitrogen for use in fertilizer, and the traditional sources of these substances are running out. They are however abundant in the wastewater in our sewers. By recycling these nutrients from human waste, we will be able to ensure a stable and predictable supply of several nutrients. This is already being done at laboratory level today, and in the long term it is possible that Ecomotive AS will look into this type of nutrient recycling.