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Waste biorefineries — integrating anaerobic digestion and microalgae cultivation for bioenergy production

Chen, Yi-di, Ho, Shih-Hsin, Nagarajan, Dillirani, Ren, Nan-qi, Chang, Jo-Shu
Current opinion in biotechnology 2018 v.50 pp. 101-110
anaerobic digestion, biogas, biomass, biorefining, carbon dioxide, carbon dioxide fixation, commercialization, economic feasibility, ecosystem services, feedstocks, harvesting, microalgae, models, sludge, waste disposal, waste treatment
Commercialization of microalgal cultivation has been well realized in recent decades with the use of effective strains that can yield the target products, but it is still challenged by the high costs arising from mass production, harvesting, and further processing. Recently, more interest has been directed towards the utilization of waste resources, such as sludge digestate, to enhance the economic feasibility and sustainability of microalgae production. Anaerobic digestion for waste disposal and phototrophic microalgal cultivation are well-characterized technologies in both fields. However, integration of anaerobic digestion and microalgal cultivation to achieve substantial economic and environmental benefits is extremely limited, and thus deserves more attention and research effort. In particular, combining these two makes possible an ideal ‘waste biorefinery’ model, as the C/N/P content in the anaerobic digestate can be used to produce microalgal biomass that serves as feedstock for biofuels, while biogas upgrading can simultaneously be performed by phototrophic CO2 fixation during microalgal growth. This review is thus aimed at elucidating recent advances as well as challenges and future directions with regard to waste biorefineries associated with the integration of anaerobic waste treatment and microalgal cultivation for bioenergy production.