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Granulation, control of bacterial contamination, and enhanced lipid accumulation by driving nutrient starvation in coupled wastewater treatment and Chlorella regularis cultivation

Zhou, Dandan, Li, Yunbao, Yang, Yang, Wang, Yao, Zhang, Chaofan, Wang, Di
Applied microbiology and biotechnology 2015 v.99 no.3 pp. 1531-1541
Chlorella, Sphingobacterium, Stenotrophomonas maltophilia, bacteria, bacterial contamination, biomass, biotechnology, chemical oxygen demand, coculture, denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis, flocculation, granules, harvesting, inoculum, lipid content, microalgae, microbial growth, nitrogen, nutrient deficiencies, pollutants, polysaccharides, starvation, wastewater, wastewater treatment
Bacterial contamination and biomass harvesting are still challenges associated with coupling of microalgae and wastewater treatment technology. This study investigated aggregation, bacterial growth, lipid production, and pollutant removal during bacteria contaminated Chlorella regularis cultivation under nutrient starvation stress, by supposing the C/N/P ratios of the medium to 14/1.4/1 (MB₂.₅) and 44/1.4/1 (MB₄.₀), respectively. Granules of 500–650 μm were formed in the bacteria contaminated inoculum; however, purified C. regularis were generally suspended freely in the medium, indicating that bacterial presence was a prerequisite for granulation. Extracellular polymeric substance (EPS) analysis showed that polysaccharides were dominant in granules, while protein mainly distributed in the outer layer. Denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) results revealed Sphingobacteriales bacterium and Sphingobacterium sp. are vital organisms involved in the flocculation of microalgae, and nitrifiers (Stenotrophomonas maltophilia) could co-exist in the granular. Both EPS and DGGE results further supported that bacteria played key roles in granulation. C. regularis was always dominant and determined the total biomass concentration during co-cultivation, but bacterial growth was limited owing to nutrient deficiency. Starvation strategy also contributed to enhancement of lipid accumulation, as lipid content in MB₄.₀with a greater C/N/P led to the greatest increase in the starvation period, and the maximum lipid productivity reached 0.057 g/(L·day). Chemical oxygen demand and nitrogen removal in MB₄.₀reached 92 and 96 %, respectively, after 3 days of cultivation. Thus, cultivation of microalgae in high C/N/P wastewater enabled simultaneous realization of biomass granulation, bacterial overgrowth limitation, enhanced lipid accumulation, and wastewater purification.