Research Output per year
Academic & Professional Qualifications
• BEng (Hons) Civil Engineering
• MSc Hydraulics & Water Resources Engineering
• MSc Environmental Science & Technology
• PhD Environmental Engineering
• Member, The Chartered Institution of Water & Environmental Management, MCIWEM
• Chartered Engineer, CEng
• Fellow, The Higher Education Academy, FHEA
Director, Postgraduate Environment Education (Environmental Engineering), leading the development and delivery of taught postgraduate programmes, short courses and training in the subject area.
I am a Director of the Urban Water Technology Centre (https://www.abertay.ac.uk/business/services/uwtc/)
My research explores the characteristics of the complex microbial community associated with the control of environmental pollutants. The aim, essentially, is to develop and improve the technology for treating (and extracting useful products such as organic fertiliser, biogas and freshwater from) industrial and municipal wastes and wastewaters. My research in anaerobic digestion processes encourages regular consultations by public and private sector organisations trying to find solutions to organic waste issues. My current research areas include treatment of industrial and hospital wastewaters, small scale and decentralised wastewater treatment systems (e.g. package plants and constructed wetland systems), surface water quality management, remediation of oil contaminated land, landfill decay modelling and restoration of landfill sites, and waste and sanitation in developing countries.
• Undergraduate courses (Civil Engineering and Environmental Management)
Fluid mechanics and hydraulics, water and wastewater engineering, sewerage design, water supply and treatment, wastewater treatment, solid waste treatment and management, air pollution control.
• Postgraduate and Continuous Professional Development (CPD) programmes
Wastewater treatment, sewage sludge management, solid waste management, landfill technology, contaminated land remediation, water quality management, sanitation and waste management in developing countries. These programmes have strong industrial links and the MSc course is accredited by the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM), the pre-eminent professional institution of the sector.
My research interest lies in the area of environmental technology, specialising in engineering application of biological, physical and chemical processes for the control and abatement of environmental pollutants, and in the production of bio-energy. My research aims at developing new (and improve existing) technologies for harnessing beneficial products from waste materials (e.g. organic fertiliser and bio-energy production organic residues) and for solving common environmental problems i.e., treatment of sewage, municipal and industrial waste, water treatment.
My special focus is on the identification, characterisation, manipulation and modelling of microbial interactions associated with the biodegradation of carbonaceous and nitrogenous compounds, leading to the optimisation and/or development of pollution abatement technologies.
Specific applications of my research address the following themes:
- Domestic and industrial wastewater treatment
- Decentralised wastewater treatment systems, including constructed wetlands
- Biological nutrient removal from wastewaters
- Sludge anaerobic digestion and disposal
- Anaerobic digestion (biogas production) of biodegradable organic residues and sludges
- Organic fertiliser production from biodegradable organic residues and sludges
- Solid waste management
- Landfill technology and decay modelling
Current PhD and Postdoctoral research projects:
- Anaerobic digestion and co-digestion of agricultural residues
- Modelling of anaerobic digestion processes
- Anaerobic digestion in high saline conditions
- Bioremediation of petroleum hydrocarbon contaminated soils and surface waters
- Development of cleaning technologies for the management of organic residuals from the distillery industry
- Treatment of hospital and pharmaceutical wastewaters
- Application of anaerobic digestion for sustainable household waste management in low income countries
- Low energy domestic wastewater treatment for effluent re-use
- Development of methodologies for the assessment and control of groundwater pollution in low income countries
- Biological characterisation of constructed wetland used for municipal wastewater treatment
Selected current and past projects
• Re-use of waste streams to enable development of systems for a land-based recirculation aquaculture system and salmon farming operation [2018-2021]. Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) project with FishFrom Limited.
• Investigate the cause of, and identify methods to reduce CO emissions from a municipal waste incineration plant . Funded by the Dundee Energy Recycling Ltd (DERL), Dundee City Council.
• A review of investment decisions at small drinking water supply systems with declining water quality issues [2017-date]. Funded by the Scottish Government (Scotland's Centre of Expertise for Waters (CREW)).
• An independent evaluation of the "Integrated Water Resource Management - Southern Malawi" project on behalf of the Scottish Government [2016-date]. Funded by the Scottish Government (Scotland's Centre of Expertise for Waters (CREW)).
• Innovative solutions for sustainable drinking water treatment at small to medium scales . Funded by the Scottish Government (Scotland's Centre of Expertise for Waters (CREW)).
• Practical measures for reducing pollutant load from septic tanks . Funded by the Scottish Government (Scotland's Centre of Expertise for Waters (CREW)).
• Validation of a filtering system for starch [2014-2016]. Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) project, Technology Strategy Board) and Ivan Wood & Sons Ltd.
• European Commission Grant: Director General Enterprise & Industry 326/PP/ENT/IMA/13/1112413 - Study to support the evaluation of the use of phosphates in Consumer Automatic Dishwasher Detergents (CADD). [2014-2015] Leading organisation: Bio Intelligent Service, Paris, France.
• Evaluation of methane yields from co-digestion of food and farm residues [2010-date]. Funded by various private and public sector organisations.
• Scottish Biofuel Project [2012-2015] European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) Project involving a consortium made up of Edinburgh Napier University, University of Abertay Dundee, University of Edinburgh, Scottish Agricultural College, and The Scottish Association of Marine Sciences (University of the Highlands and Islands), Oban.
• Clean technologies for management of organic residuals [2012-2014]. Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) project with Diageo Plc.
• Seaweed Anaerobic Digestion [May 2009-November 2010]. Funded by UK Government (ITI Energy).
• Dundee Riverside Landfill decay modelling (2006 – 2011). Funded by Dundee City Council.
• Investigating the hydrolytic effects of microbial enzymes in improving sludge and solid waste digestion (2006 - 2007). Funded by Scottish Government (SCORE Programme).
• Development of high-solids municipal waste digestion system and investigation of the soil enhancing properties of the digestate. (2002-2008). Collaboration with The James Hutton Institute, Dundee and supported by Dundee City Council.
• Development of GRAnular Bed Baffled Reactor (GRABBR) (1998-2008). GRABBR is an anaerobic wastewater treatment system. Pilot trials were funded by Tennents Caledonian Welpark Brewery in Glasgow.
• Development of small wastewater treatment systems (1996-1998). Funded by Balmoral Group, Aberdeen.
• Reviewer for many scientific journals
• Editorial Board member, Heliyon (Elsevier’s open access journal) (2015-2018).
• Expert reviewer of research funding applications for various organisations in the UK and overseas.
• Member, The Chartered Institution of Water & Environmental Management (CIWEM) Course Accreditation Panel (2001-2006).
• Scientific Committee member, International Conference on Solid Waste Technology & Management, Philadelphia, PA, USA (www.solid-waste.org) (2014-date).
• Member, CIWEM Joint Examinations Board (2000-2006).
• External Programme Assessor, BSc (Hons) Environmental Management & Planning, Glasgow Caledonian University, Glasgow (2007-2012).
• External Examination, PhD Thesis, University of Newcastle, Newcastle upon Tyne ( 2006, 2014, 2015, 2017).
• External Examination, PhD Thesis, Heriot Watt University, Edinburgh (2009)
• External Examination, MPhil Thesis, Cardiff University, Cardiff (2014)
• External Examination, PhD Thesis, Cranfield University, Cranfield (2014, 2017)
• External Examination, PhD Thesis, University of Southampton, Southampton (2015)
• External Examination, PhD Thesis, Glasgow Caledonian University, Glasgow (2015)
• External Examination, PhD Thesis, University of South Wales, Pontypridd (2016)
• External Examination, PhD Thesis, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen (2016)
• External Examination, PhD Thesis, University of Coventry, Coventry (2017)
• External Examination, PhD Thesis, University of Portsmouth, Portsmouth (2017)
• Visiting Professor, Ecole Supérieure d’Ingénieurs des Travaux de la Construction, Paris [ESITC Paris], France (2006- date).
• Membre, Conseil Scientifique (Scientific Advisory Panel member), ESITC Paris, France (2009–date).
• Honorary Tutor, Department of Civil Engineering, University of Bristol, Bristol (2009-2010).
• External Programme Validation Panel Member, Postgraduate Environment Programmes (comprising MSc in Energy and Environmental Management, MSc in Carbon and Water Management and Urban Environmental Management), University of Central Lancashire, Preston, 4th May 2011.
• External Examiner, Suite of Postgraduate Environment Programmes, University of Central Lancashire, Preston (2011- 2016).
• External Examiner, MSc in Water, Waste and Environmental Management, University of Greenwich, Kent (2016-2020).
• External Examiner, MSc in Renewable Energy Engineering, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, UK (2017-2021).
• Scottish Branch Committee Member & Vice Chair, The Chartered Institution of Water & Environmental Management (CIWEM) (www.ciwem.org) (2015-2018).
• External Panel Member, Institution-Led Review (ILR) of Engineering, Quality Management, Project Management and Waste & Resource Management. University of the West of Scotland, Paisley, 27-28th April 2019.
• Advisory Board Member, World Biogas Association (http://www.worldbiogasassociation.org/).
Re-use of waste streams to enable development of systems for a land-based recirculation aquaculture system and salmon farming operation [2018-2021]. Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) project with FishFrom Limited.
Investigate the cause of, and identify methods to reduce CO emissions from a municipal waste incineration plant . Funded by the Dundee Energy Recycling Ltd (DERL), Dundee City Council.
A review of investment decisions at small drinking water supply systems with declining water quality issues [2017-date]. Scotland's Centre of Expertise for Waters (CREW).
An independent evaluation of the "Integrated Water Resource Management - Southern Malawi" project on behalf of the Scottish Government [2016-2017]. Scotland's Centre of Expertise for Waters (CREW).
Innovative solutions for sustainable drinking water treatment at small to medium scales . Scotland's Centre of Expertise for Waters (CREW).
Practical measures for reducing pollutant load from septic tanks . Scotland's Centre of Expertise for Waters (CREW).
Validation of a filtering system for starch [2014-2016]. Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) project, Technology Strategy Board) and Ivan Wood & Sons Ltd. This project also investigates options for treating and re-use of effluent water from the filtering system.
Clean technologies for management of organic residuals [2012-2014]. Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) project with Diageo Plc. Diageo is a world leader in whisky production and is also the producer of Guinness beer. The major waste streams are investigated and current and innovative technologies evaluated and developed (respectively) for their treatment taking into account sustainability and cost effectiveness.
Low Carbon Networks for Business (LoCAl-Net) [2011-2013]. European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) Project. The LoCal-Net project identifies the issues and barriers to low carbon innovation present within the key sectors of the Scottish Economy, including food & drink, agriculture and tourism.
Scottish Biofuel Project [2012-2016]. European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) Project. The Project is one of the largest of its kind focusing on innovative and sustainable uses for organic waste and ‘by products’ to enable for example sustainable transportation, heat and electricity solutions for Scottish small and medium enterprises. This project intends through developing the most significant Scottish biofuel project partnership to enable Scottish businesses to access the full range of expertise and thus outcomes from the available biofuel solution toolkit to lower waste disposal costs and introduce new income streams through innovation. The academic partnership is comprised of Edinburgh Napier University, Abertay University, The University of Edinburgh, Scotland's Rural College (formerly Scottish Agricultural College) and The Scottish Association of Marine Science. I lead the anaerobic digestion aspects of the project.
Dundee Riverside Landfill decay modelling (2006–2011). This study involved the development of novel and effective strategies for assessing and predicting methane generation from a closed municipal landfill. It also involved development of assessing risks posed by landfill sites for various site re-use options. This study informed stakeholders of the cost/nature of interventions necessary to rehabilitate the landfill site, pursuant to which, the site was transformed into a 35 hectare nature park (Dundee Riverside Nature Park) with views over the River Tay.
Short and continuous professional development (CPD) courses experience
Led/contributed in developing/delivery of many CPD/capacity-building courses. Examples include:
• Training courses for water industry operatives
• Developing Capacity in Water & Environmental Management in Africa
• Waheed Rasheed Water & Environment Training Course, Aden (Yemen)
• Environmental Management in the Tanzanian Mining Sector
• Environmental Law & Policy in the Oil & Gas Industry
• Water Sector Policy Analysis & Reform Strategy in Africa
• Water Pollution Control courses
• Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems (SUDS)
• Industrial Wastewater Treatment & Management
• Health & Safety (Nigerian public sector organisations)
• International Intensive Biogas Training - Practical Digester Biology –(in partnership with IBBK: http://www.biogas-training.com/).
Development of GRABBR (1998–2007). The GRAnular Bed Baffled Reactor (GRABBR) is an anaerobic industrial wastewater treatment technology.Pilot trials were carried out in collaboration with Tennent’s Brewery, Glasgow
Upgrading of small sewage treatment plants for major water companies and private estate developers (1993-date).
Development of small wastewater treatment systems (1996-1998), e.g. Balmoral SBR, which has been marketed by Balmoral Group since 1998.
Leading role in internationalisation, involving the following countries: Bangladesh, China, France, Ghana, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, Togo and Turkey (2005 to date)
• Public talk on ‘Making your rubbish work for you' - Cafe Science event on 24th September 2014. The talk discussed the possibilities of using waste as an alternative fuel source with reference to my research.
• The Courier Newspaper Debates: Dundee biomass
The Courier Newspaper hosted a special debate on a Dundee biomass plant plan on 1st May 2013, at the Gardyne Theatre (Dundee). Attended by over 350 concerned members of the public, the debate sought to identify the potential environmental impacts of the proposed plant. Member of a 7-person panel that took questions from the audience. The debate was chaired by Steve Bargeton, Deputy Editor of The Courier Newspaper. More information can be obtained from the link: http://www.abertay.ac.uk/about/news/newsarchive/2013/name,11876,en.html
A review of investment decisions at small drinking water supply systems with declining water quality issuesAkunna, J., O'Keeffe, J., Gilmour, D. & Blackwood, D., 5 Jun 2020, Aberdeen: Scotland’s Centre of Expertise for Waters (CREW). 16 p.
Research output: Book/Report › Commissioned report
Investigating the impact of inoculum source on anaerobic digestion of various species of marine macroalgaeObata, O., Ditchfield, A., Hatton, A. & Akunna, J., 1 Mar 2020, In : Algal Research. 46, 9 p., 101803.
Research output: Contribution to journal › Article
Dissolution experiments on dolerite quarry fines at low liquid to solid ratio: a source of calcium for microbial-induced calcite precipitationC. Casas, C., Schaschke, C. J., Akunna, J. C. & Jorat, M. E., 25 Sep 2019, In : Environmental Geotechnics.
Research output: Contribution to journal › Article
Research output: Book/Report › Commissioned report
Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceeding › Other chapter contribution