In a new study, DWFI-supported student Xinjuan Hu and her advisor, DWFI Food 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, such as lipid, starch and protein. In the process, microalgae also can 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 composition of real wastewater. It often can be too harsh for the growth of microalgae, and making it less harsh can be too cumbersome for large-scale operations.
Hu found that pre-treating wastewater with chlorine improved wastewater conditions for microalgae at a low cost. Also, researchers were able to improve pollutant removal using microalgae safely entrapped in beads with symbiotic bacteria. This study shows the potential of using green microalgae for sustainable wastewater treatment in commercial operations.