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Cultivating Chlorella sp. in a Pilot-Scale Photobioreactor Using Centrate Wastewater for Microalgae Biomass Production and Wastewater Nutrient Removal

Min, Min, Wang, Liang, Li, Yecong, Mohr, Michael J., Hu, Bing, Zhou, Wenguang, Chen, Paul, Ruan, Roger
Applied biochemistry and biotechnology 2011 v.165 no.1 pp. 123-137
Chlorella, bioenergy, biomass production, carbon, carbon dioxide, chemical oxygen demand, light intensity, microalgae, nitrogen, nutrient content, nutrients, phosphorus, total suspended solids, wastewater, wastewater treatment
This study is concerned with a novel mass microalgae production system which, for the first time, uses “centrate”, a concentrated wastewater stream, to produce microalgal biomass for energy production. Centrate contains a high level of nutrients that support algal growth. The objective of this study was to investigate the growth characteristics of a locally isolated microalgae strain Chlorella sp. in centrate and its ability to remove nutrients from centrate. A pilot-scale photobioreactor (PBR) was constructed at a local wastewater treatment plant. The system was tested under different harvesting rates and exogenous CO2 levels with the local strain of Chlorella sp. Under low light conditions (25 μmol·m-2s-1) the system can produce 34.6 and 17.7 g·m-2day-1 biomass in terms of total suspended solids and volatile suspended solids, respectively. At a one fourth harvesting rate, reduction of chemical oxygen demand, total Kjeldahl nitrogen, and soluble total phosphorus were 70%, 61%, and 61%, respectively. The addition of CO2 to the system did not exhibit a positive effect on biomass productivity or nutrient removal in centrate which is an organic carbon rich medium. The unique PBR system is highly scalable and provides a great opportunity for biomass production coupled with wastewater treatment.