Our project aims to create a complete ammonia removal device by combining nitrification and denitrification capabilities within one single bacterium, Paracoccus denitrificans.
Nitrification is the conversion of ammonia (NH3) into nitrite (NO2-) through hydroxylamine (NH2OH). Our bacterium is a facultative anaerobe that natively performs denitrification, which is a multi-step conversion of nitrates (NO3-) and nitrites (NO2-) into inert nitrogen gas (N2). Not only are ammonia and nitrite/nitrate are dangerous to humans, but they also happen to be the nutrients that fuel the process of water eutrophication. Our plan is to transform the genes responsible for nitrification from a nitrifying bacterium, Nitrosomonas europaea, into P. denitrificans. Once this is accomplished, we will perform full-scale characterization of our device and assess its ability to replace the bacterial co-culture living in Wastewater Activated Sludge (WAS) -- the current nutrient removal method at wastewater treatment plants.
This year we ended up winning a Gold Medal and were Nominated for Best In Track for Environmental Sciences and Best New Basic Part!