Optimizing algae for wastewater remediation (Fall 2015 - 2017)

Motivation

Microscopic image of the green microalga,  Volvox carteri .

Microscopic image of the green microalga, Volvox carteri.

Microalgae can be applied in biotechologies for enhancing wastewater treatment facilities (WWTFs). Wastewater contains nutrients, such as nitrogen (N) and pĥosphorus (P), that support microalgal growth. When cultivated in wastewater, microalgae use these compounds to grow, while removing them. This can help WWTFs meet stringent discharge regulations for N and P and minimize environmental degradation. Microalgae can be harvested from wastewater and have the potential to be applied for the development of renewable energies, such as biofuels. However, persistent chemicals that algae are unable to utilize limit application in WTTFs. Optimizing microalgae to also use persistent chemicals is important for promoting efficient wastewater treatment and minimizing the discharge of harmful chemicals into the environment.


Research

The green microalga,  Chlmaydomonas reinhardtii , grown on Tris-Acetate-Phosphate (TAP) medium.

The green microalga, Chlmaydomonas reinhardtii, grown on Tris-Acetate-Phosphate (TAP) medium.

My master’s thesis involved optimizing the green microalga, Chlmaydomonas reinhardtii, to utilize butyrate. Butyrate is a major intermediate formed during anaerobic digestion (AD), which is a process applied at many WWTFs that minimizes sludge and produces a renewable energy source known as methane gas. Butyrate can inhibit methane gas formation and contribute to the accumulation of organic intermediates at a high concentration, hampering AD. Molecular biological approaches were applied to genetically engineer C. reinhardtii to grow in synthetic water containing butyrate.

This research has the potential to provide a strategy for minimizing the concentration of butyrate and accumulation of organics during AD. This is essential for maintaining suitable conditions for AD to occur and recovering methane gas. In addition, the incorporation of microalgae into basins that perform AD at WWTFs can provide an initial pretreatment strategy for removing nutrients, coliform bacteria, and heavy metals.


Presentations

Presenting at the 11th Annual PROMISE-AGEP Research Symposium & Professional Development Conference.

Presenting at the 11th Annual PROMISE-AGEP Research Symposium & Professional Development Conference.

  1. Optimizing the Green Alga, Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, for Wastewater Remediation [Poster]. Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation Research Symposium, 2016. 

  2. Optimizing the Green Alga, Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, for Wastewater Remediation [Talk]. University of Maryland, Baltimore County 38th Annual Graduate Research Conference, 2016.

  3. Optimizing the Green Alga, Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, for Wastewater Remediation [Talk]. 11th Annual PROMISE Research Symposium & Professional Development Conference, 2016