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Assessing Oil Content of Microalgae Grown in Industrial Energetic-Laden Wastewater

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Industrial ammunition facilities generate wastewater containing different energetic compounds and nitrogen species. Our previous studies showed that some of these untreated wastewater streams can be mixed at a specific ratio to grow microalgae. In this study, four different untreated wastewater samples from an industrial ammunition facility were mixed and used as a culture media for microalgae, Scenedesmus obliquus ATCC®11477, in 100 L raceway reactors. The main objective of the study was to test the effect of growth parameters (light penetration, nutrient availability and retention times) on the oil content of microalgae in a semi-continuous setting. The raceway reactors were operated under 68–95 μmol/m2/s of light intensity for a 14:10 h light:dark photoperiod, and 60 rpm mixing paddle speed. Continuous monitoring of pH and temperature of the growth medium, periodic analysis of cell density and dry weight of microalgae, and analysis of the medium’s nutrient contents were performed. Biomass harvesting from the raceway reactors was conducted weekly, and the harvested algal biomass was tested for its oil content using an ethanol extraction method. Results showed that nitrogen starvation increased the oil production from 13% to 29% of oil based on the dry weight of biomass, whereas no increment in oil or biomass production was evidenced with the increase of light penetration for the two different retention times tested. This study provided significant information towards microalgae growth in energetic-laden wastewater streams. This study also showed that wastewaters from industrial ammunition facilities can be reused for culturing microalgae, which can be utilized for renewable energy production.

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An initial version of the paper has been presented in the “International Conference on Protection and Restoration of the Environment XIV”, July 3rd to 6th, 2018, Thessaloniki, Greece. This work was supported by the Consortium for Energy, Environment and Demilitarization (CEED) contract number SINIT-15-0013. Authors would like to thank Dr. Amalia Terracciano and Dr. Tsan-Liang Su for their analytical help, and Ms. Zhaoyu Zheng, and Dr. Athula Attygalle and the Center for Mass Spectrometry (Stevens Institute of Technology) for ESI-MS scan analysis. Authors would also like to thank Valicor Inc. for their assistance in developing method for the gravimetric and qualitative analysis of oil.

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Correspondence to Washington Braida.

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RoyChowdhury, A., Abraham, J., Abimbola, T. et al. Assessing Oil Content of Microalgae Grown in Industrial Energetic-Laden Wastewater. Environ. Process. 6, 969–983 (2019).

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  • Industrial wastewater
  • Energetic compounds
  • Microalgae
  • Raceway reactor
  • Algal oil