Center Director and Professor
Biodesign Swette Center for Environmental Biotechnology
Arizona State University, USA
An international leader in managing microbial communities, Dr. Rittmann's work is leading to new ways to clean up pollution, treat water and wastewater, capture renewable energy, and improve human health.
The membrane biofilm reactor (MBfR), a technology that Dr. Rittmann invented, uses naturally occurring microorganisms to remove contaminants such as perchlorate and tricloroethene from water. He holds five patents on the technology, which is being commercialized by APTwater, Inc.
Dr. Rittmann is at the lead of ASU teams using two innovative approaches to renewable bioenergy: using anaerobic microbes to convert biomass to useful energy forms, such as methane, hydrogen, or electricity; and using photosynthetic bacteria that can capture sunlight to produce new biomass that can be turned into liquid fuels, like diesel or jet fuel.
The links between microbes and human health also are being explored through collaboration with the Mayo Clinic. Dr. Rittmann's group explores how microorganisms in the human intestine contribute to obesity, which may lead to means to regulate the microbial communities in ways that mitigate excessive weight gain.
According to Institute for Scientific Information, Dr. Rittmann is one of the world's most highly cited researchers. He has published nearly 500 peer-reviewed papers. His textbook, Environmental Biotechnology: Principles and Applications, is used by universities around the world to educate students about the ways in which microorganisms can be used to improve environmental quality.
Prior to his time at ASU, Dr. Rittmann was a John Evans Professor of Environmental Engineering at Northwestern University and a professor in the Department of Civil Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He began his career as an environmental engineer at Sverdrup and Parcell and Associates.
Dr. Rittmann has received many accolades during his career. These include being named an International Water Association Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science Fellow, ASU Regents' Professor, and National Academy of Engineering member. He has also won the Arizona BioIndustry Association 2009 Award for Research Excellence, American Society of Civil Engineers 2009 Simon W. Freese Award, 1994 National Water Research Institute's Clarke Prize for Outstanding Achievement in Water Science and Technology, and the Huber Research Prize from American Society of Civil Engineers.