Francisco Rubio Rincón

Senior Lecturer in Sanitary Engineering


Francisco Rubio was born in 1986 in Durango, Mexico. With a background in civil engineering, Francisco has gained work experience in different companies and projects throughout Mexico and abroad. Nevertheless, feeling the urgency to preserve our earth and its resources and the desire to contribute, Francisco decided to obtain further knowledge and education in the field of Waste Water treatment. In October 2011 Francisco started his MSc in Municipal Water and Infrastructure, specialization Sanitary Engineering at UNESCO-IHE. During the first year of study, he gained knowledge in the biological and chemical removal of nutrients, modeling of the microbial process, and in the different configuration and operational conditions of wastewater treatment plants.  Accordingly, in April 2013 Francisco graduated with distinction. During the research phase, he focused on the recovery of nitrogen and phosphorous (as Struvite) from waste streams, using affordable sources of magnesium such as Seawater.

Once his MSc studies concluded, he decided to continue his research through a Ph.D. study, which he finished in January 2017. During his Ph.D. research, Francisco reinforced skills such as: organization, time management, creative thinking among others. His Ph.D. research focused mainly on two themes: i) The interaction of sulfate reduction with the biological removal of phosphorous, and ii) The phosphorous removal using nitrate as an electron acceptor. In practice, both of these research themes could help to i) Reduce sludge production, and ii) Carbon requirements of the wastewater treatment plant while complying with the E.U. standards for the discharge of treated wastewater.

Research Summary


The disposal of untreated “waste” into the environment, causes major negative impacts. To prevent this, it is our duty as scientists to find effective solutions to specific complex cases. My main research expertise is the i) resource recovery, ii) selection and cultivation of specialized microorganisms, and iii) integration of biochemical process in mathematical models, yet my interests expand to energy production and removal of emergency contaminants. Related to the above mentioned there are various research topics that I am keen to explore. One of my research interests aims at altering the general thinking of “waste” as an end product by exploring the possibilities to further recover and reuse the product.


Assuming that the “waste” in this world is instead the incorrect management of resources gives access to a new set of research. For instance, I am keen to explore the possibility of resource recovery of new functionality described of certain bacteria such as i) bioplastic recovery ii) sulfur, phosphate, and nitrogen recovery from Thiothrix caldifontis. In a world based on fuel, the recovery of biodiesel has a high impact, I am interested in research into this area. Also, nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, are recoverable as a precipitate from separate streams such as urine (which further will increase the capacity of the WWTP) or from effluents of the anaerobic treatment. The remaining ammonia can be used to generate energy via microbial fuel cells (MFCs), inactivate pathogens, or recover as ammonia nitrate. On top of it, there is a range of emergency contaminants (as those produced due to the ingest of medicines) which can be removed via adsorption or advanced oxidation processes. The above-mentioned process like other processes ought to be integrated into a holistic model of sewer and non-sewer processes. Such a model will support the idea that non-sewer processes are not solely for developing countries, instead they provide a global opportunity to recover resources and further decrease the cost of conventional wastewater treatment.


Main publications

  • Rubio Rincon FJ, Lopez-Vazquez CM, Ronteltap M, Brdjanovic D (2014) Seawater for phosphorus recovery from urine. Desalination, 348:49-56.
  • Rubio-Rincon, F.J., Lopez-Vazquez, C.M., Welles, L.,Nierychlo M., Abbas B., Geleijnse M., Nielsen P.H., van Loosdrecht, M.C.M., Brdjanovic, D., 2017. Long-term effects of sulphide on the enhanced biological removal of phosphorus: The symbiotic role of Thiothrix caldifontis. Water Research. Water Research.
  • Rubio-Rincon, F.J., Lopez-Vazquez, C.M., Welles, L., van Loosdrecht, M.C.M., Brdjanovic, D., 2016. Sulphide effects on the physiology of Candidatus Accumulibacter phosphatis type I. Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology.
  • Rubio-Rincon, F.J., Lopez-Vazquez, C.M., Welles, L., van Loosdrecht, M.C.M., Brdjanovic, D., 2017.Cooperation between Competibacter and Accumulibacter in denitrification and phosphate removal process. Water Research.
  • Rubio-Rincon, F.J., Lopez-Vazquez, C.M., Welles, L., van de Brand T.P.H., Abbas B., van Loosdrecht, M.C.M., Brdjanovic, D., 2017 Effects of electron acceptors on sulphate reduction activity at WWTP. Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology.
  • Rubio-Rincon, F.J., Lopez-Vazquez, C.M., Welles, L., van Loosdrecht, M.C.M., Brdjanovic, D., (2019) Effect of Lactate on the microbial community and process performance of an EBPR system. Frontiers in microbiology
  • Rubio-Rincon, F.J., Weissbrodt D.G., Lopez-Vazquez, C.M., Welles, L. , Abbas B., , Albertsen M., Nielsen P.H. van Loosdrecht, M.C.M., Brdjanovic, D., (2019). Absent anoxic activity of “Candidatus Accumulibacter” sp. IHE1 on nitrate. Water Research.
  • Lopez-Vazquez, C.M., Rubio-Rincon, F.J, Brdjanovic D. (submitted). Towards city-wide inclusive sanitation (CWIS) modelling: modelling of faecal sludge containment/treatment processes.

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