Culture of Microalgae Chlamydomonas reinhardtii in Wastewater for Biomass Feedstock Production


The objective of this research was to develop large-scale technologies to produce oil-rich algal biomass from wastewater. The experiments were conducted using Erlenmeyer flasks and biocoil photobioreactor. Chlamydomonas reinhardtii was grown in artificial media and wastewaters taken from three different stages of the treatment process, namely, influent, effluent, and centrate. Each of wastewaters contained different levels of nutrients. The specific growth rate of C. reinhardtii in different cultures was monitored over a period of 10 days. The biomass yield of microalgae and associated nitrogen and phosphorous removal were evaluated. Effects of CO2 and pH on the growth were also studied. The level of nutrients greatly influenced algae growth. High levels of nutrients seem to inhibit algae growth in the beginning, but provided sustained growth to a high degree. The studies have shown that the optimal pH for C. reinhardtii is in the range of 7.5. An injection of air and a moderate amount of CO2 promoted algae growth. However, too much CO2 inhibited algae growth due to a significant decrease in pH. The experimental results showed that algal dry biomass yield reached a maximum of 2.0 g L−1 day−1 in the biocoil. The oil content of microalgae of C. reinhardtii was 25.25% (w/w) in dry biomass weight. In the biocoil, 55.8 mg nitrogen and 17.4 mg phosphorus per liter per day were effectively removed from the centrate wastewater. Ferric chloride was found to be an effective flocculent that helps the algae settle for easy harvest and separation from the culture media.

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This work was partially supported by the University of Minnesota Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment, University of Minnesota Center for Biorefining and the Metropolitan Council Environmental Services of Minnesota.

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Correspondence to Roger Ruan.

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Kong, Qx., Li, L., Martinez, B. et al. Culture of Microalgae Chlamydomonas reinhardtii in Wastewater for Biomass Feedstock Production. Appl Biochem Biotechnol 160, 9 (2010).

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  • Microalgae culture
  • Biomass production
  • Feedstock
  • Oil yield
  • Biodiesel
  • Wastewater treatment
  • Nitrogen and phosphorus removal