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.
As CEO and founder, Bretschger has targeted the food industry—and especially high-sugar processes like soda, juice and confectionery—as potential applications of this technology. I spoke with her to learn more about her invention, how it works and what its future role in wastewater treatment could be. The system is called Bio-Electrochemical Treatment Technology, or BETT®.