SUBJECT: M.S. Thesis Presentation
BY: Abigail Cohen
TIME: Tuesday, April 24, 2018, 1:00 p.m.
PLACE: MRDC Building, 4404
TITLE: The Nutrient Microgrid: Ecologically-Inspired Design of Urban Material Cycling Networks
COMMITTEE: Dr. Berdinus Bras, Chair (ME)
Dr. Marc Weissburg (BIO)
Dr. Cassandra Telenko (ME)


Engineered systems are composed of multiple interconnected networks that produce, process, and dispose of waste materials. However, to achieve process efficiency within system boundaries, engineers have historically designed supply chains that are highly centralized and modeled them with surroundings of infinite material sources and sinks. In light of the dwindling resources and growing pollution brought on by this design strategy, this thesis focusses on the material dynamics of the human food supply and waste management infrastructure to identify possible improvements to the material efficiency of these engineered systems. Case studies tracing material through selected urban and industrial networks are presented, and emerging biotechnologies, including aquaponics and constructed wetlands among others, are then introduced to these networks as material cycling modules. These reimagined material networks are then analyzed using ecological and sustainability metrics and compared to the original networks to assess impact and efficiency. Results suggest that a design strategy that employs higher degrees of network decentralization, catalyzed by ecologically-inspired material cycling modules, can improve material efficiency and increase the resilience of these systems.