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Cross-study analysis of factors affecting algae cultivation in recycled medium for biofuel production

Loftus, Sarah E., Johnson, Zackary I.
Algal research 2017 v.24 pp. 154-166
algae, algae culture, biofuels, biomass, cost effectiveness, decision making, fuel production, harvesting, meta-analysis, microorganisms, water reuse
Current high costs of commercial-scale algal biofuel production prevent the widespread use of this renewable fuel source. One cost-saving approach is the reuse of algae cultivation water after biomass harvesting, which reduces water pumping and treatment costs. However, dissolved compounds, cell debris, and microorganisms remaining in the water could affect subsequent algae generations. Previous studies demonstrate a variety of effects of recycled medium on algae growth, yet their results have not been collectively analyzed. Here we integrate data across 86 studies to determine the relative importance of different factors influencing algae growth in recycled medium. We found that algae taxa can have the greatest influence, while the harvesting method is less influential on growth outcomes. This meta-analysis identifies favorable taxa and thus provides a tool for algae cultivation decision-making when medium reuse is an important driver. Results can also aid in estimating relative algae yield and growth rates for technoeconomic assessments that incorporate water recycling.