Dr. Lansing integrates research, teaching, extension, and mentoring in order to provide efficient and ecologically sound methods for waste treatment and bioenergy using ecological engineering. Dr. Lansing’s research is focused in three intertwined areas: Anaerobic digestion (AD); Microbial and solid-oxide fuel cells (MFC and SOFC); and eMergy and life cycle assessments (LCA). Her research on bioenergy has value-added benefits to agricultural communities, the sanitation sector, and developing countries, while directly addressing greenhouse gas emissions, organic pollutants, pathogens, and nutrient runoff reductions. Dr. Lansing’s research applications include dairy and poultry manure digestion in Maryland and sanitary waste digestion in Haiti. Dr. Lansing and her students have designed innovative pilot-scale digesters, built and studied MFCs in the US and Costa Rica, coordinated AD workshops, and disseminated the knowledge gained via publications and FactSheets aimed at farmers and policy makers on AD processes. She teaches ENST 415: Renewable Energy, ENST 481: Ecological Design, ENST 681: Advanced Ecological Design, and ENST 689B: Sustainable Technologies for Developing Countries.
Anaerobic digestion (AD) is a series of sequential microbial processes to transform organic material into methane-enriched biogas. AD has been shown to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, while providing renewable energy and a high-quality fertilizer. However, there are barriers facing widespread implementation of AD in the US, including marginal economics, high heating requirements, and the lack of an AD service sector. Dr. Lansing’s research has examined how to design AD systems with lower capital costs and heating requirements, the viability of co-substrates to increase biogas production, and post-digestion treatment using microbial fuel cells (MFC). Dr. Lansing also utilizes eMergy and lifecycle assessment (LCA) to provide an assessment of a system’s sustainability. Emergy equates all energy inherent within a system to solar emjoules, while LCA compares ‘cradle to grave’ environmental impacts.
Dr. Lansing and her students have designed six (3 m3) replicate field-scale digesters with a focus on minimal inputs to overcome cost barriers to AD adoption for smaller-scale farmers, with subsequent financial analyses of small-scale digesters in the US. Her research has also quantified the effect of temperature on dairy manure AD at the lab and field-scale, as well as the utilization of alterative, lower-temperature AD inoculum sources (wetland sediment and landfill leachate) to provide a means to decrease costs associated with heating small-scale AD. Dr. Lansing and her students have quantified the higher energy production when co-digesting food waste and forage radish cover crops, with on-going research for campus food waste AD. In Haiti, Dr. Lansing has installed three AD systems for sanitary waste, achieving 99% reduction in pathogens and 85% reduction in solids. The produced biogas was used successfully for cooking, and the results from a Sanitation Survey of 550 people showed the majority of the respondents were willing to pay for a toilet-AD service ($0.20/use). A business model was created to fill voids in sanitation treatment and bioenergy production through the use of AD as an alternative to charcoal. In Costa Rica, microbial fuel calls (MFCs) were used for post-AD treatment with additional energy production through a Gates Foundation grant.
Professional Organization Membership
Microbial Fuel Cells
The MFC is an emerging waste-to-energy technology that couples anaerobic oxidation of organic matter with reduction of oxygen by splitting the process into two coupled electrode half-reactions. First, organic matter is anaerobically oxidized at the anode by a bacterial biofilm. The liberated electrons are conducted through an external electrical circuit connecting the anode and cathode where they are consumed by reducing oxygen (the other half-reaction). Charge neutrality is maintained by diffusion of protons through a perm-selective membrane separating the anodic and cathodic half-cells that excludes O2 from the anode. Due to favorable thermodynamics of the net reaction, electrical power is delivered to the external circuit by the current generated by the separated half reactions. Research in this area includes coupling anaerobic digestion with microbial fuel cells, enhancing cathode exchange rate, and new baffled reactor designs for increased waste treatment in the anode.
Anaerobic digesters use animal, human or plant waste materials to create renewable energy (methane ‘biogas’) and an improved fertilizer while reducing water pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, and odor. My research focuses on the development of low-cost digestion systems that can be used by small to medium-scale farmers both in the United States and the developing world. My current digestion research sites include dairy and poultry agricultural digesters in Maryland, dairy and swine agricultural digesters in Costa Rica, human waste digesters in Haiti, palm oil effluent digesters in Sierra Leone, and anaerobic digesters coupled with microbial fuel cells for use in developing countries.
All living organisms need the basic building blocks of life: carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, and sulfur. These building blocks come to humans and other animals through a complex food web. At the base of that food web are microorganisms. Microbes are critical in transformations of nitrogen, for example. They fix nitrogen, create amino acids, mineralize nitrogen, and complete the cycle by denitrifying. We study these transformations using techniques such as isotope dilution and the microorganisms involved by measuring the composition and abundance of genes and transcripts that code for the enzymes critical in these transformations.
Ecological Waste Treatment Systems
Ecological treatment systems, also known as living machines, are a form of biological wastewater treatment designed to mimic the cleansing functions of wetlands that produce beneficial by-products such as edible and ornamental plants and aquaculture products, while treating agricultural, industrial and domestic wastewater to high standards. The systems often consist of a series of planted and unplanted aerobic and anaerobic treatment tanks, trickling filters, treatment wetlands, and aquaculture tanks and are often housed in a greenhouse when located in a temperate climate. My research involves enhancing the beneficial by-products of ecological treatment system through methane capture, aquaculture, and plant selection.
Modeling and Energy Analysis
I utilize ecological modeling to understand carbon and nutrient cycling in waste treatment systems at different scales. I also use energy analysis using emergy language to quantify the environmental costs and benefits of low-cost waste treatment systems and life cycle assessments. My research strives to advance broader theoretical knowledge in nutrient cycling and methane fluxes, resulting in new low-cost, practical applications for the use of ecological processes that provide important societal services while protecting the environment.
Wetlands are among the most productive ecosystems on Earth, support a diverse array of wildlife, and have been used for centuries to provide numerous services to humans, including water quality improvement floodwater management, and habitat for plants and animals. Wetland plants improve water quality by promoting settling of particulates, uptake of nutrients and metals, and supporting microbial communities important in chemical transformation and removal from water and sediments. The species composition and diversity of plant species also affects ecosystem function. Wetlands containing mixtures of plant species may be superior to monocultures in improving water quality or other ecosystem functions due to complementary resource use below or aboveground. Wastewater treatment wetlands are a well-established engineering practice for treating biochemical oxygen demand, suspended solids, and nutrients, as well as sequestering metals, degrading chlorinated organics and phenolics and removing pathogens. Constructed wetlands have been used to purify wastewaters of all types: industrial, urban runoff, municipal, agricultural, landfill leachate and institutional. Most often they are used as a secondary treatment system, especially in smaller communities and locations where the wetland can “polish” secondarily treated wastewater. In agricultural settings treatment wetlands are highly effective in improving water quality, although high concentrations of ammonium in runoff from some operations (silos, animal facilities) may kill wetland plants. Research in treatment wetlands include polishing wetlands after anaerobic digestion, wetlands for aquaculture, wetlands for treating runoff from grey water and the built environment, and treatment wetlands for storm water management.
Ecological modeling of dynamic systems is used on various scales to gain a further understanding of syntheses and linkages. Ecological modeling can be used to describe system interactions of their interdependent parts linked together by exchanges of energy, matter and information. Integrative modeling techniques have been developed that allow for environmental decision-making of ecological engineering projects and concepts. Often dynamic modeling is used using the platform STELLA. Ecological modeling research also includes environmental accounting, which quantifies the direct and indirect contribution that nature makes to socioeconomic systems, specifically the field of eMergy which incorporates the total amount of energy required to make another form of energy. Emergy is embodied energy that includes environmental contributions (e.g., water, wind) and human services. Our work in ecological modeling includes eMergy, dynamics modeling of digesters and the incorporation of the anaerobic digestion ADM1 model into the STELLA platform.
ENST 415/ENST 615/MEES 615 (3 credits)
An overview of renewable energy technologies, their current applications and design criteria. Emphasis is placed on bioenergy (anaerobic digestion, biodiesel, and ethanol) solar, and wind energy. Fall Semester.
ENST 481/ENST 681: Ecological Design (3 credits)
This is an advanced survey course on the field of ecological design and engineering. Principles of ecological engineering are applied through design of biologically-based waste treatment systems. Spring Semester.
ENST 689B: Sustainable Technologies for Developing Countries (1 credit)
A graduate course in sustainable technologies applicable to developing countries, such as Haiti. Appropriate sustainable technologies are reviewed. Proposal writing is integrated into the course through reviewing of NSF funded proposals in sustainable design and writing a modified NSF doctoral dissertation enhancement grant in sustainable design. Fall Semester.
ENST 470: ENST Senior Capstone (4 credits)
An undergraduate course in which the knowledge from their undergraduate program is applied in a real world ecological design and technology project. Lecture and lab. Fall Semester.
ENST 499: Special Topics in Natural Resource Science (3 credits)
In-depth study of special topics in Ecological Engineering and Renewable Energy through individual study Spring Semester 2009: Economics of Renewable Energy. Fall Semester 2009: Anaerobic Digestion of Palm Oil. Spring 2010: Energy Finance: Demand and Response.
ARTICLES IN REFEREED JOURNALS (Student advisees are italicized)
Belle, A., Lansing, S., Mulbry. W., Weil, R.R., 2015. Methane and hydrogen sulfide dynamics co-digesting forage radish and dairy manure. Biomass and Bioenergy 80: 44-51. (IF: 4.2). DOI: 10.1016/j.biombioe.2015.04.029
Lansing, S., Klavon, K., Mulbry, W., Moss, A., 2015. Design and validation of field-scale anaerobic digesters treating dairy manure for small farms. Transactions of ASABE 58(2): 441-449. (IF: 1.4).
Belle, A, Lansing, S., Mulbry, W., Weil, R.R., 2015. Anaerobic co-digestion of forage radish and dairy manure in complete mix digesters. Bioresource Technology 178: 230-237. (IF: 5.6) DOI: 10.1016/j.biortech.2014.09.036.
Witarsa, F., Lansing, S, 2015. Quantifying methane production from psychrophilic anaerobic digestion of separated and unseparated dairy manure. Ecological Engineering 78: 95-100. (IF: 3.5). DOI: 10.1016/j.ecoleng.2014.05.031
Lisboa, M.S., Lansing, S., 2014. Evaluating the toxicity of food processing wastes as co-digestion substrates with dairy manure. Waste Management 34(7): 1299-1305. (IF: 3.5) DOI: 10.1016/j.wasman.2014.03.005
Moss, A., Lansing, S., Tilley, D., Strass, K., 2014. Assessing the sustainability of small-scale anaerobic digestion with the introduction of the emergy efficiency index (EEI) and adjusted yield ratio (AYR). Ecological Engineering 64: 391-407. (IF: 3.5) DOI: 10.1016/j.ecoleng.2013.12.008
Lisboa, M.S., Lansing, S., 2013. Characterizing food waste substrates for co-digestion through biochemical methane potential (BMP) experiments. Waste Management 33(12): 2664-2669. (IF: 3.5, Cited: 3) DOI: 10.1016/j.wasman.2013.09.004
Ceccarelli, D., Spagnoletti, M., Hasan, N.A., Lansing, S., Huq, A., Colwell, R.R., 2013. A new integrative conjugative element detected in Haitian isolates of Vibrio cholerae non-O1/non-O139. Research in Microbiology 164(9): 891-893. (IF: 3.0) DOI: 10.1016/j.resmic.2013.08.004
Saer, A., Lansing, S., Davitt, N., Graves, R., 2013. Life Cycle Assessment of a Food Waste Composting System: Environmental Impact Hotspot. Journal of Cleaner Production 52(1): 234-244. (IF: 4.1, Cited: 6) DOI: 10.1016/j.jclepro.2013.03.022
Klavon, K., Lansing, S., Moss, A., Mulbry, W., Felton, G., 2013. Economic analysis of small-scale agricultural digesters in the United States. Biomass and Bioenergy 54: 36-45. (IF: 4.2, Cited: 5). DOI: 10.1016/j.biombioe.2013.03.009
Ciotola, R., Lansing, S., Martin, J., 2011. Emergy analysis of biogas production and electricity generation from small-scale agricultural digesters. Ecological Engineering 37: 1681-1691. (IF: 3.5, Cited: 31) DOI: 10.1016/j.ecoleng.2011.06.031
Lansing, S., Martin, J.F., Botero, R.B., Nogueira da Silva, T., Dias da Silva, E., 2010. Methane production in low-cost, co-digestion systems treating manure and used cooking grease. Bioresource Technology 101: 4362-4370. (IF: 5.6, Cited: 49) DOI: 10.1016/j.biortech.2010.01.100
Lansing, S., Martin, J., Botero, R., Nogueira da Silva, T., Dias da Silva, E., 2010. Wastewater transformations and fertilizer value when co-digesting differing ratios of swine manure and used cooking grease in low-cost digesters. Biomass and Bioenergy 34: 1711-1720. (IF: 4.2, Cited: 19) DOI: 10.1016/j.biombioe.2010.07.005
Viquez, J., Martínez, H. Botero, R., Lansing, S., 2010. Evaluation of the sustainability of biogeneration of electricity in an anaerobic fermentation system in a combination of two Taiwanese-model biodigesters supplemented with swine and cattle manure. Tierra Tropical: Sostenibilidad, Ambiente y Sociedad 6 (2): 223-231. (article in Spanish).
Aldana, L.Y., Lansing, S., Botero, R., 2010. Supplementing biodigesters with vinasse and its effect on the production and quality of biogas and the effluents. Tierra Tropical: Sostenibilidad, Ambiente y Sociedad 6 (2): 233-240. (article in Spanish)
Lansing, S., Botero, R., Martin, J., 2008. Waste treatment and biogas quality in small-scale agricultural digesters. Bioresource Technology 99: 5881-5890.
(IF: 5.6, Cited: 70) DOI: 10.1016/j.biortech.2007.09.090
Lansing, S., Viquez, J., Martínez, H., Botero, R., Martin, J., 2008. Quantifying electricity generation and waste transformations in a low-cost, plug-flow anaerobic digestion system. Ecological Engineering 34: 332-348. (IF: 3.5, Cited: 41) DOI: 10.1016/j.ecoleng.2008.09.002
Lansing, S., Martin, J., 2006. Use of an ecological treatment system (ETS) for removal of nutrients from dairy wastewater. Ecological Engineering 28: 235-245. (IF: 3.5, Cited: 47). DOI: 10.1016/j.ecoleng.2006.04.006
REPORTS and EXTENSION PUBLICATIONS (Student advisees are italicized)
Lansing, S., Eaton, A., 2015. Incentivizing Sanitation with Biogas in Haiti—Stage 1 Pilot Digester Evaluation. Final Report to USAID. 25 pages. Award #AID-521-A-13-00008.
Lansing, S., Yarwood, S. Torrents, A., Yarberry, A., 2014. Optimizing energy-positive wastewater treatment systems by integrating fundamental aquatic chemistry and microbiology knowledge. Final Report to UMD ADVANCE Program for Inclusive Excellence Interdisciplinary and Engaged Research Seed Grants – National Science Foundation. 9 pages.
Felton, G.K., Moss A., Lansing, S.A., 2014. Anaerobic digestion: Basic processes for biogas production. University of Maryland Extension, Fact Sheet 994.
Lansing, S., Weil, R., Felton, G., Belle, A., 2013. Creating renewable energy through sustainable nutrient management practices – Digestion of manure and cover crops to reduce fossil fuel use in the Northeast. Final Report to Northeast Sun Grant Initiative – US Department of Transportation. 32 pages. Award #NE10-040.
Tender, L., Lansing, S. Gregoire, K., 2013. Hybrid Anaerobic Digester-Microbial Fuel Cell for Energy & Nutrient Capture. Final Report to Gates Foundation Grand Challenges Explorations, Phase I. 6 pages. Award # OPP1034758.
Lansing, S., Witarsa, F., 2013. Developing inoculum to increase anaerobic digestion efficiency in winter months. Graduate Student Project. Final Report to Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program/U.S. Department of Agriculture-National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA-NIFA). 19 pages. Award #GNE11-030
Lansing, S., 2011. Assessing the Impact of Internal Refugees on Hospital Water and Wastewater Infrastructure and Its Implications for Future Sustainable Treatment Designs. Final Report to National Science Foundation (NSF). 26 pages. Award #1034836.
Lansing, S., Moss, A., Strass, K., Witarsa, F., 2011. Low-cost Anaerobic Digesters for Dairy Manure Treatment and Renewable Energy Production. Final Report to US Geological Survey/Maryland Water Resources Research Center. 26 pages.
Henry, P., Iwata, K., Lee, H., Maley, S., Mayer, T., Wertz, C., Lansing, S., 2011. Anaerobic digestion and treatment wetland design for source-separated latrine, black water, and grey water from a medical complex in Haiti. Submitted to Zamni Lasante: Partners in Health, Cange, Haiti.
Lansing, S., 2009. Overview of poultry litter digestion in the U.S. Submitted to Ross Tyler, Director of Clean Energy at the Maryland Energy Administration and Maryland Congressman Ruppersberger. 6 pages.
Lansing, S., Gonzalez, P., Martinez, E.J., Viquez, J., 2008. Human waste treatment for Partners in Health (Zanmi Lazante) Complex, Central Plateau, Haiti. Submitted to the Lower South Carolina Episcopal Diocese. 26 pages.
Water Quality and Waste to Energy Laboratory