Published in Bioresource Technology
By Xinjuan Hu (DWFI Supported Student), Yulie Meneses (DWFI Processing Specialist), and Ashraf Ally Hassan
In a new study, DWFI supported student Xinjuan Hu and her advisor, DWFI Processing Specialist Yulie Meneses, found that wastewater treatment using microalgae is efficient, economic and environmentally friendly. Similar to green plants, microalgae conduct photosynthetic growth using sunlight and CO2 and accumulate useful compounds like lipid, starch and protein. In the process, microalgae can also remove pollutants from wastewater, especially nitrogen and phosphorus.
However, there are a few challenges to making microalgae wastewater treatment commercially available — one of which is the complex environment of real wastewater. It can often be too harsh for the growth of microalgae and to make it less so can be too cumbersome for large-scale operations. But, by pretreating wastewater with chlorine researchers were able to improve wastewater conditions for microalgae at low cost. Also, by using microalgae safely entrapped in beads with symbiotic bacteria, researchers were able to improve pollutant removal, light transmission to the microalgae and increase its growth. This study shows the potential of sustainable wastewater treatment with green microalgae in commercial operations.