Living Machine

Living Machine is a trademark and brand name for a patented form of ecological wastewater treatment designed to mimic the cleansing functions of wetlands. Also known as Solar Aquatics Systems, the latest generation of the technology is based on fixed-film ecology and the ecological processes of a natural tidal wetland, one of nature’s most productive ecosystems.

The Living Machine is an intensive bioremediation system that can also produce beneficial byproducts, such as reuse-quality water, ornamental plants and plant products—for building material, energy biomass, animal feed.

Aquatic and wetland plants, bacteria, algae, protozoa, plankton, snails and other organisms are used in the system to provide specific cleansing or trophic (nutritional) functions. The tidal process operates outdoors in tropical and temperate climates. In colder climates, the system of tanks, pipes and filters may be housed in a greenhouse to prevent freezing and raise the rate of biological activity.

The initial development of the technology in the United States is generally credited to biologist John Todd, and evolved out of the bioshelter concept developed at the now-defunct New Alchemy Institute (a research center that did pioneering investigation into organic agriculture in the 1970s and ’80s.). The Living Machine system falls within the emerging discipline of ecological engineering, and many systems using earlier generations of the technology are built without being dubbed a Living Machine.

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