Las Cruces Utilities Collaboration Leads to Algae Breakthroughs
by Cassie McClure and Suzanne Michaels (KRWG) Over the past decade, New Mexico State University (NMSU) College of Engineering Professor Nagamany Nirmalakhandan (known as Dr. Khandan) has investigated how algae – yes, that simple green stuff that grows in stagnant water – removes contaminants from wastewater.
The specific microalgae used by Dr. Khandan and his team of dedicated graduate students comes from hot springs in Yellowstone National Park and can thrive in 110-degree temperatures while consuming organic carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorous found in wastewater. By doing that it cleans wastewater making it suitable for discharge into waterways. The algae’s chemical reactions are fueled by the sun – free and abundant in our region.
However, over the last six months, this team has observed an unexpected and dramatic new result. The algae also destroys potentially disease-causing pathogens in wastewater.
Traditionally, municipal wastewater treatment facilities have added chlorine to kill pathogens in the wastewater. Yet over the last ten years, researchers have discerned a negative side effect. The chlorine has the potential to form carcinogenic – that is, possibly cancer causing – by-products. Now, the race is on to find new solutions, and one might involve Dr. Khandan’s algae fueled by the sun.
“Our team found that the algae fights for dominance in our system,” explains Dr. Khandan, “And potentially changes the belief that scientists have previously held regarding how algae can operate.” READ MORE