In January, we looked at a novel way of acquiring real-time data on primarily incoming water streams to control consistency of water used as a critical ingredient. This month we look at something completely different—using bacteria to clean up a wastewater stream and generate enough electricity to run the system and produce clean water. And, if you think that concept is really “out there,” had you asked the inventor of this technology—when she had started a successful career in aerospace—whether she would switch careers and create a successful down-to-earth invention like this, she would have probably said “no.”
Orianna Bretschger graduated from Northern Arizona University with a B.S. in Physics and Astronomy. She quickly found herself with a vibrant career in aerospace. But, she thought, it wasn’t really her. Bretschger left to finish a Ph.D. in Materials Science from USC, where she discovered a whole new world of microbes and electrons—a world that led her to a discovery that uses bacteria to treat high-strength wastewater. After signing on to an assistant professorship and lab researcher with the J. Craig Venter Institute, she continued her research in the field, eventually spinning the technology out into her own company, Aquacycl, to turn her research into a real-world product and service.