Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology

, Volume 101, Issue 7, pp 2659–2675 | Cite as

Microalgae-based advanced municipal wastewater treatment for reuse in water bodies

  • Jing-Han Wang
  • Tian-Yuan Zhang
  • Guo-Hua Dao
  • Xue-Qiao Xu
  • Xiao-Xiong Wang
  • Hong -Ying HuEmail author


Reuse of secondary municipal effluent from wastewater treatment plants in water bodies could effectively alleviate freshwater resource shortage. However, excessive nutrients must be efficiently removed to prevent eutrophication. Compared with other means of advanced wastewater treatment, microalgae-based processes display overwhelming advantages including efficient and simultaneous N and P removal, no requirement of additional chemicals, O2 generation, CO2 mitigation, and potential value-added products from harvested biomass. One particular challenge of microalgae-based advanced municipal wastewater treatment compared to treatment of other types of wastewater is that concentrations of nutrients and N:P ratios in secondary municipal effluent are much lower and imbalanced. Therefore, there should be comprehensive considerations on nutrient removal from this specific type of effluent. Removal of nutrients and organic substances, and other environmental benefits of microalgae-based advanced municipal wastewater treatment systems were summarized. Among the existing studies on microalgal advanced nutrient removal, much information on major parameters is absent, rendering performances between studies not really comparable. Mechanisms of microalgae-based nitrogen and phosphorus removal were respectively analyzed to better understand advanced nutrient removal from municipal secondary effluent. Factors influencing microalgae-based nutrient removal were divided into intrinsic, environmental, and operational categories; several factors were identified in each category, and their influences on microalgal nutrient removal were discussed. A multiplicative kinetic model was integrated to estimate microalgal growth-related nutrient removal based majorly on environmental and intrinsic factors. Limitations and prospects of future full-scale microalgae-based advanced municipal wastewater treatment were also suggested. The manuscript could offer much valuable information for future studies on microalgae-based advanced wastewater treatment and water reuse.


Microalgae Advanced municipal wastewater treatment Nutrient removal Influencing factors Kinetics Water reuse 



This study was in part supported by Science Fund for Creative Research Groups (No. 21521064), National Natural Science Fund of China (Key Program, No. 51138006), a grant from the China Postdoctoral Science Foundation (No. 2016 M591188), and the Collaborative Innovation Center for Regional Environmental Quality.

Compliance with ethical standards

This mini-review does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jing-Han Wang
    • 1
  • Tian-Yuan Zhang
    • 1
  • Guo-Hua Dao
    • 1
  • Xue-Qiao Xu
    • 1
  • Xiao-Xiong Wang
    • 1
  • Hong -Ying Hu
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.Environmental Simulation and Pollution Control State Key Joint Laboratory, State Environmental Protection Key Laboratory of Microorganism Application and Risk Control (SMARC), School of EnvironmentTsinghua UniversityBeijingPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.Shenzhen Environmental Science and New Energy Technology Engineering LaboratoryTsinghua-Berkeley Shenzhen InstituteShenzhenPeople’s Republic of China

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