Scientists Employ Algae as Biofuel, to Mop up Pollutants
By Chukwuma Muanya (The Guardian) Scientists have expanded the frontiers in the use of micro-organisms such as bacteria and algae for biofuel and in bioremediation with the utilization of wastewater algae.
Scientists, in one of the first studies to examine the potential for using municipal wastewater as a feedstock for algae-based biofuels, found they could grow high-value strains of oil-rich algae while simultaneously removing more than 90 percent of nitrates and more than 50 percent of phosphorous from wastewater.
A co-author of the study published in Algae said wastewater treatment facilities currently have no cost-effective means of removing large volumes of nitrates or phosphorus from treated water, so algae production with wastewater has the potential of solving two problems at once.
Rice University, United States, scientists found they could easily grow high-value strains of oil-rich algae while simultaneously removing more than 90 percent of nitrates and more than 50 percent of phosphorus from wastewater.
Lead author of the Algae study Meenakshi Bhattacharjee, a 28-year veteran of algal research who joined Rice’s biosciences faculty in June, said: “Biofuels were the hot topic in algaculture five years ago, but interest cooled as the algae industry moved toward producing higher-value, lower-volume products for pharmaceuticals, nutritional supplements, cosmetics and other products.
“The move to high-value products has allowed the algaculture industry to become firmly established, but producers remain heavily dependent on chemical fertilizers. Moving forward, they must address sustainability if they are to progress toward producing higher-volume products, ‘green’ petrochemical substitutes and fuels.”
Bhattacharjee said the algae industry’s reliance on chemical fertilizers is a double whammy for algae producers because it both reduces profit margins and puts them in competition with food producers for fertilizers. A 2012 National Research Council report found that “with current technologies, scaling up production of algal biofuels to meet even five percent of U.S. transportation fuel needs could create unsustainable demands for energy, water and nutrient resources.” READ MORE and MORE (Rice University) Abstract (Algae) and MORE (Algae Industry Magazine)