Prof. Charles Banks is Professor within Engineering and the Environment at the University of Southampton.
Research interests are in the area of innovative technology for environmental protection, including:
Controlled anaerobic and aerobic biodegradation of municipal and industrial solid wastes
Treatment of liquid industrial effluents by biological systems
Energy production from digestion of crops and agricultural wastes
Concepts for an integrated farming system for non competitive food and fuel production
Provision of software tools for process energy balances, waste audit and waste management.
Current research projects reflect these interests and have led to the design of novel reactor systems and operating protocols to meet the challenges of new and adapted technologies for environmental protection, renewable energy production and sustainable nutrient management systems. Of special interest is the development of operating protocols for anaerobic digestion, to maximise rates of substrate conversion and biogas yield. As part of this, current research is promoting the use of mass and energy balances as a means of quantifying process performance and developing new analytical tools to broaden our understanding of the process, its kinetics and limitations. Earlier research on wastewater treatment systems based on algal photosynthesis is now linking together with some existing themes including growth of algal biomass for energy production and product generation in biorefineries: this encompasses work on reactor design and biochemical pathways.
A current challenge with intermittent generation of renewable energy is finding an energy storage solution to provide energy at a time to meet consumer demand. Electrolytic production of H2 has been proposed, however this is currently limited by a lack of H2 infrastructure for storage and usage. H2 can be combined biochemically, however, with CO2 to form CH4 in an anaerobic reactor. This process increases the carbon utilisation of waste biomass in anaerobic digestion, producing biomethane which can act as a substitute to natural gas in our current gas infrastructure. This project investigates the mass transfer of H2 into an anaerobic reactor and the performance of the digester considering the effect on pH from a reduced concentration of bicarbonate in the digester liquor.
This collaborative project is aimed at developing a beneficial synergy between anaerobic digestion (AD) and pyrolysis for the processing of non-source segregated organic fraction of municipal solid waste (MSW).
The research considers a range of factors affecting algal revival and growth, focusing particularly on phenomena in the unsteady state period occurring between the end of winter and the onset of summer conditions.
AD is not a new technology, but its application for energy recovery in the field of municipal waste treatment is only just becoming established in Europe, and only for mixed wastes. The use of source segregated food wastes as substrate is not yet widespread, possibly because of technical challenges linked with collection, handling, pre-treatment and digestion of this material. The research includes a number of closely related components with a common underlying goal: to evaluate and where possible improve the energy production process from the perspective of the overall net energy gain achieved within defined system boundaries that include collection, sorting, processing, and beneficial use of recovered material
The principal aims of this research were:
to determine whether autoclaving changes the rate of biodegradation in composting and anaerobic digestion and to what extent;
to determine whether the product from bioprocessing meets PAS 100 requirements for heavy metal concentration;
to examine potential effects of thermal pre-treatment on gaseous emissions during subsequent bioprocessing
The project involved joint workshops between the Universities of Southampton and Bath in the UK and the University of California at Irvine, to address these issues and to look at potential research approaches and areas for collaboration.
This was one part of an EPSRC-funded project looking at waste management in the context of a sustainable urban environment. The research involved assessment of appropriate scales and technologies for urban bioprocessing plant, and experimental studies on anaerobic digestion as a technique for management of source-separated kitchen and catering wastes
Funded by the Waste Resources Action Programme (WRAP), the Bioenergy and Organic Resources Group led a consortium of 3 institutions, including The Open University and WRc, to develop the test which has now become part of PAS110 and confirms that a digestate is sufficient in terms of biological stability to ensure environmentally sound land application.
This Knowledge Transfer (KT) project focused on the following key areas:
Bioenergy (especially methane production through anaerobic digestion, but also with potential for involvement in other areas e.g. other biofuels, production of pellets for local heat and co-firing in power stations, and pyrolysis of residual municipal wastes for syngas production)
Energy footprinting for process optimisation, both in industry and in the waste management sector
Energy efficiency studies within companies
Urban Sustainability studies (including participation in the Thameside Gateway Institute for Sustainability)
The aim of the work was to better understand the factors influencing the stabilisation of the organic fraction of municipal solid waste (MSW) in the anaerobic digestion process. In particular the research addressed whether stabilisation, as judged by volumetric gas production, solids destruction and bio-stability of the residues, could be improved by co-digestion with other organic wastes from industry, commerce and agriculture.
ECOFUEL is building an international partnership for new second generation biofuel processes: the research will set the foundation stones for the technologies being developed, and make further contributions to overcoming barriers to commercialisation. The ECOFUEL project will effectively integrate respective regional programmes for better allocation and utilisation of resources, in particular to achieve the critical mass required to move the second generation of biofuels forward.
CROPGEN was a research project funded by the EU's 6th Framework Programme, involving 11 partners in 6 European countries. The overall objective of the research was to produce from biomass a sustainable fuel source that can be integrated into the existing energy infrastructure in the medium term, and in the longer term provide a safe and economical means of supplying the needs of a developing renewable fuel economy.
The purpose of the Knowledge Transfer Partnership between BV Dairy and Southampton is to apply the University's research-based knowledge of process optimisation and integration techniques to the introduction of AD as a treatment process for high-volume, low-strength dairy wastes.
The Bioganix Demonstration Project was funded under Defra's New Technologies programme. The University of Southampton was responsible for research monitoring and evaluation, including energy footprinting of the process.
This project involved research, monitoring and evaluation of the Biocycle digester, a plant treating kitchen and green waste from 19,000 households in South Shropshire. The plant is funded by Defra's New Technologies demonstrator programme and Advantage West Midlands, and has been operating since January 2006.
The research examined the potential for development of anaerobic digestion (AD) on farms, and the contribution that this could make to rural development and diversification of agricultural practice by enhanced land use planning for bioenergy production. The research is set in the context of a rapidly developing European agenda aimed at both strengthening the rural economy and protecting the environment.
The research looked at the suitability of using anaerobic digestion as a method of processing domestic kitchen waste and was carried out in conjunction with Greenfinch Ltd, specialists in Biogas Technology R & D.
If properly operated, cold climate waste stabilisation ponds (WSP) offer an extremely efficient means of treating raw sewage to provide a high-quality effluent at low cost, which can be used for irrigation purposes or returned to the rivers. Because of the desperate shortage of water resources in many regions, the country's vast land area and difficulties with the provision of effective conventional wastewater treatment in many cities, waste stabilisation ponds are of particular relevance to Kazakhstan and Central Asia. This EU-funded project aimed at improving our knowledge of such systems in order to optimise their design and performance
Waste stabilisation ponds in continental climates operate in very different modes in different seasons. This research was carried out in conjunction with an EU FP4 project to establish the parameters affecting design and operation.
The disposal of Cement Kiln Dust (CKD) to landfill produces leachates with extreme properties of high pH and ionic species concentrations. The research has investigated a number of issues including: the properties of CKD, methods for the extraction of CKD rich leachate from landfills, the interaction of CKD with municipal solid waste and the anaerobic treatment of leachates with a high sulphate concentration.
The MERDER treatment system was tested on a site owned and operated by Mayglothling Waste Disposal Ltd where the machines remained for a period of 9 months. A major part of the business of Mayglothling’s is the emptying and tankering of septic tank contents to their own privately-owned and Environment Agency licenced wastewater treatment plant.