Living Machines at Penn State University

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Click here for more info on our Summer Session 2000 Course: Living Machines: From Conception to Construction

Living Machines are a family of technologies for purifying wastewaters utilizing complex biological ecosystems rather than chemicals. We aspire to bring this technology to the University to assess its performance and prospects for larger scale use through several phases:

1. Set up a demonstration “desktop size” living machine as part of the Center for Sustainability’s table exhibit at the PASA (Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture) conference, Feb 4 &5 at the Penn Stater Hotel & Conference Center. This desktop living machine is being lent to us by Ocean Arks International , the non-profit research organization on Living Machines headed by John Todd and Nancy Jack Todd.

2. Construct our own mini-living machine in a greenhouse on campus so that we become experienced in the various stages of its creation and maintenance - from tanks and pumps, to plants and water quality testing.

3. Work with Michael Shaw who heads the for-profit Living Machine company Living Technologies to design the actual full-scale Living Machine which will go into the greenhouse to be reconstructed on the Old Botany Building on campus. Restoration of the original greenhouse is the PSU Class of 2000 Senior Class Gift. The STS program (which houses the Center for Sustainability) will be moving from Willard Building into the Old Botany building this summer. While greenhouse construction will take some time to complete, the Living Machine in an important aspect of the construction as it will divert the wastewater from the building into its life-filled tanks with the idea that purified graywater could be piped back to the toilets for reuse or used to grow plants in the greenhouse. A local example of this technology is that of the Evapotranspiration Greenhouse at the Julian Woods Community in Julian, PA, about a 20-minute drive from State College. We plan to make several trips to this site during the semester, the first one being planned for Saturday, January 22nd. The workshop with Michael Shaw will take place Feb 21-25.

4. Depending on the success and progress on our smaller models, during a one-month intensive program this summer, we hope to actually construct the full-scale Living Machine that will go in the Old Botany Greenhouse, so that it is ready to go... just add plants and wastewater!

If you would like to help out or participate in this exciting venture, contact Erin English at 861-6086 / or Olena Welhasch at 867-8392 /

We will try to update you on our activities through this web page... stay tuned!