Outdoor Microalgae Cultivation for Wastewater Treatment

  • Djamal Zerrouki
  • Abdellah Henni


Microalgae can be applied for wastewater treatment (WWT) because of their potential to assimilate nutrients. The recent interest in using wastewater as a medium for algae biomass generation is considered as a promising biological process from environmental and economic points of view. Despite the promising research findings on microalgae for WWT at the laboratory scale, the large-scale microalgae-based WWT process is reliable only in outdoor systems that still need further investigation. In this book chapter, we provide an overview and the most up-to-date information on outdoor cultivation of microalgae for WWT, discussing the progress and the important operational factors in outdoor culture.


Outdoor Wastewater Algae Culture Nutrient removal Biomass Open pond 


  1. Arbib Z, Ruiz J, Álvarez-Díaz P, Garrido-Pérez C, Barragan J, Perales JA (2013) Long term outdoor operation of a tubular airlift pilot photobioreactor and a high rate algal pond as tertiary treatment of urban wastewater. Ecol Eng 52:143–153. Scholar
  2. Ayre JM, Moheimani NR, Borowitzka MA (2017) Growth of microalgae on undiluted anaerobic digestate of piggery effluent with high ammonium concentrations. Algal Res 24:218–226. Scholar
  3. Álvarez-díaz PD, Ruiz J, Arbib Z, Barragán J, Garrido-pérez MC, Perales JA (2017) Freshwater microalgae selection for simultaneous wastewater nutrient removal and lipid production. Algal Res. Scholar
  4. Barber J (1992) Too much of a good thing: light can be bad for photosynthesis. Trends Biochem Sci 17:61–66CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bhattacharjee M, Siemann E (2015) Low algal diversity systems are a promising method for biodiesel production in wastewater fed open reactors. Algae 30:67–79. Scholar
  6. Cabanelas ITD, Ruiz J, Arbib Z, Chinalia FA, Garrido-Pérez C, Rogalla F, Nascimento IA, Perales JA (2013) Comparing the use of different domestic wastewaters for coupling microalgal production and nutrient removal. Bioresour Technol 131:429–436. Scholar
  7. Cabello J, Toledo-Cervantes A, Sanchez L, Revah S, Morales M (2015) Effect of the temperature, pH and irradiance on the photosynthetic activity by Scenedesmus obtusiusculus under nitrogen replete and deplete conditions. Bioresour Technol 181:128–135. Scholar
  8. Chaumont D (1993) Biotechnology of algal biomass production: a review of systems for outdoor mass culture. J Appl Phycol 5:593–604CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Chojnacka K, Chojnacki A, Górecka H (2005) Biosorption of Cr3+, Cd2+ and Cu2+ ions by blue-green algae Spirulina sp.: kinetics, equilibrium and the mechanism of the process. Chemosphere 59:75–84. Scholar
  10. Chu H, Tan X, Zhang Y, Yang L, Zhao F, Guo J (2015) Continuous cultivation of Chlorella pyrenoidosa using anaerobic digested starch processing wastewater in the outdoors. Bioresour Technol. Scholar
  11. Craggs R, Sutherland D, Campbell H (2012) Hectare-scale demonstration of high rate algal ponds for enhanced wastewater treatment and biofuel production. J Appl Phycol 24:329–337. Scholar
  12. Chisti, Y. (2012). Raceways-based production of algal crude oil. In: C. Posten & C. Walter (Eds.), Microalgal biotechnology: Potential and production (pp. 113–146). de Gruyter, BerlinGoogle Scholar
  13. de Godos I, Blanco S, García-Encina PA, Becares E, Muñoz R (2010) Influence of flue gas sparging on the performance of high rate algae ponds treating agro-industrial wastewaters. J Hazard Mater 179:1049–1054. Scholar
  14. de Godos I, Blanco S, García-Encina PA, Becares E, Muñoz R (2009a) Long-term operation of high rate algal ponds for the bioremediation of piggery wastewaters at high loading rates. Bioresour Technol 100:4332–4339. Scholar
  15. de Godos I, González C, Becares E, García-Encina PA, Muñoz R (2009b) Simultaneous nutrients and carbon removal during pretreated swine slurry degradation in a tubular biofilm photobioreactor. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol 82:187–194. Scholar
  16. de Godos I, Mendoza JL, Acién FG, Molina E, Banks CJ, Heaven S, Rogalla F (2014) Evaluation of carbon dioxide mass transfer in raceway reactors for microalgae culture using flue gases. Bioresour Technol 153:307–314. Scholar
  17. Dahmani S, Zerrouki D, Ramanna L, Rawat I, Bux F (2016) Cultivation of Chlorella pyrenoidosa in outdoor open raceway pond using domestic wastewater as medium in arid desert region. Bioresour Technol. Scholar
  18. Delrue F, Álvarez-Díaz DP, Fon-Sing S, Fleury G, Sassi J-F (2016) The environmental biorefinery: using microalgae to remediate wastewater, a win–win paradigm. Energies 9:132. Scholar
  19. Diniz GS, Silva AF, Araújo OQF, Chaloub RM (2016) The potential of microalgal biomass production for biotechnological purposes using wastewater resources. J Appl Phycol. Scholar
  20. Dvořák L, Lederer T, Jirků V, Masák J, Novák L (2014) Removal of aniline, cyanides and diphenylguanidine from industrial wastewater using a full-scale moving bed biofilm reactor. Process Biochem 49:102–109. Scholar
  21. De Francisci D, Su Y, Iital A, Angelidaki I (2018) Evaluation of microalgae production coupled with wastewater treatment. Environ Technol 39:581–592. Scholar
  22. García-gonzález M (2013) Conditions for open-air outdoor culture of Dunaliella salina in southern Spain. J Appl Phycol 15:177–184. Scholar
  23. García D, Posadas E, Grajeda C, Blanco S, Martínez-Páramo S (2017) Comparative evaluation of piggery wastewater treatment in algal- bacterial photobioreactors under indoor and outdoor conditions. Bioresour Technol. Scholar
  24. González-Fernández C, Mahdy A, Ballesteros I, Ballesteros M (2016) Impact of temperature and photoperiod on anaerobic biodegradability of microalgae grown in urban wastewater. Int Biodeter Biodegr 106:16–23. Scholar
  25. Groot D (1990) Chronic toxicities of surfactants and detergent builders to algae: a review and risk assessment. Ecotoxicol Environ Saf 20:123–140CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Guccione A, Biondi N, Sampietro G, Rodolfi L, Bassi N, Tredici MR (2014) Chlorella for protein and biofuels: from strain selection to outdoor cultivation in a Green Wall Panel photobioreactor. Biotechnol Biofuels 7:84CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Han BP (2002) A mechanistic model of algal photoinhibition induced by photodamage to photosystem. II. J Theor Biol 214:519–527. Scholar
  28. Henkanatte-gedera SM, Selvaratnam T, Karbakhshravari M, Myint M, Nirmalakhandan N, Van Voorhies W, Lammers PJ (2017) Removal of dissolved organic carbon and nutrients from urban wastewaters by Galdieria sulphuraria: laboratory to field scale demonstration. Algal Res 4:450–456. Scholar
  29. Kenny P, Flynn KJ (2017) Physiology limits commercially viable photoautotrophic production of microalgal biofuels. J Appl Phycol 29:2713–2727. Scholar
  30. Kim H (2014) Nutrient removal and biofuel production in high rate algal pond using real municipal wastewater. J Microbiol Biotechnol. Scholar
  31. Kumar KS, Dahms H, Won E, Lee J, Shin K (2015) Ecotoxicology and environmental safety microalgae – a promising tool for heavy metal remediation. Ecotoxicol Environ Saf 113:329–352. Scholar
  32. Lam MK, Lee KT (2012) Potential of using organic fertilizer to cultivate Chlorella vulgaris for biodiesel production. Appl Energy 94:303–308. Scholar
  33. Ledda C, Villegas GIR, Adani F, Fernández FGA, Grima EM (2015) Utilization of centrate from wastewater treatment for the outdoor production of Nannochloropsis gaditana biomass at pilot-scale. Algal Res 12:17–25. Scholar
  34. Liu Y, Ruan R (2014) Effect of wastewater-borne bacteria on algal growth and nutrients removal in wastewater-based algae cultivation system. Bioresour Technol 167:8–13. Scholar
  35. Lu Q, Zhou W, Min M, Ma X, Chandra C, Doan YTT, Ma Y, Zheng H, Cheng S, Griffith R, Chen P, Chen C, Urriola PE, Shurson GC, Gislerød HR, Ruan R (2015) Bioresource technology: growing Chlorella sp. on meat processing wastewater for nutrient removal and biomass production. Bioresour Technol 198:189–197. Scholar
  36. Lu Q, Zhou W, Min M, Ma X, Ma Y, Chen P, Zheng H, Doan YTT, Liu H, Chen C, Urriola PE, Shurson GC, Ruan R (2016) Mitigating ammonia nitrogen deficiency in dairy wastewaters for algae cultivation. Bioresour Technol 201:33–40. Scholar
  37. Ma X, Zhou W, Fu Z, Cheng Y, Min M, Liu Y, Zhang Y, Chen P, Ruan R (2014) Effect of wastewater-borne bacteria on algal growth and nutrients removal in wastewater-based algae cultivation system. Bioresour Technol 167:8–13. Scholar
  38. Mahdy AA (2016) Impact of temperature and photoperiod on anaerobic biodegradability of microalgae grown in urban wastewater. Int Biodeter Biodegr 106:16–23. Scholar
  39. Markou G, Iconomou D, Muylaert K (2016) Applying raw poultry litter leachate for the cultivation of Arthrospira platensis and Chlorella vulgaris. Algal Res 13:79–84. Scholar
  40. Matamoros V, Gutiérrez R, Ferrer I, García J, Bayona JM (2015) Capability of microalgae-based wastewater treatment systems to remove emerging organic contaminants: a pilot-scale study. J Hazard Mater 288:34–42. Scholar
  41. Olguín EJ (2012) Dual purpose microalgae–bacteria-based systems that treat wastewater and produce biodiesel and chemical products within a biorefinery. Biotechnol Adv 30:1031–1046. Scholar
  42. Oswald WJ, Gotaas HB (1957) Photosynthesis in sewage treatment. Trans Am Soc Civ Eng 122:73–105Google Scholar
  43. Ozturk S, Aslim B, Suludere Z, Tan S (2014) Metal removal of cyanobacterial exopolysaccharides by uronic acid content and monosaccharide composition. Carbohydr Polym 101:265–271. Scholar
  44. Park JB, Craggs RJ, Shilton AN (2011) Wastewater treatment high rate algal ponds for biofuel production. Bioresour Technol 102:35–42. Scholar
  45. Posadas E, Bochon S, Coca M, García-González MC, García-Encina PA, Muñoz R (2014a) Microalgae-based agro-industrial wastewater treatment: a preliminary screening of biodegradability. J Appl Phycol 26:2335–2345. Scholar
  46. Posadas E, García-Encina PA, Domínguez A, Díaz I, Becares E, Blanco S, Muñoz R (2014b) Enclosed tubular and open algal-bacterial biofilm photobioreactors for carbon and nutrient removal from domestic wastewater. Ecol Eng 67:156–164. Scholar
  47. Posadas E, del Mar Morales M, Gomez C, Acién FG, Muñoz R (2015a) Influence of pH and CO2 source on the performance of microalgae-based secondary domestic wastewater treatment in outdoors pilot raceways. Chem Eng J 265:239–248. Scholar
  48. Posadas E, Muñoz A, García-González MC, Muñoz R, García-Encina PA (2015b) A case study of a pilot high rate algal pond for the treatment of fish farm and domestic wastewaters. J Chem Technol Biotechnol 90:1094–1101. Scholar
  49. Rawat I, Ranjith Kumar R, Mutanda T, Bux F (2013) Biodiesel from microalgae: a critical evaluation from laboratory to large scale production. Appl Energy 103:444–467. Scholar
  50. Revah S, Morales M (2015) Effect of the temperature, pH and irradiance on the photosynthetic activity by Scenedesmus obtusiusculus under nitrogen replete and deplete conditions. Bioresour Technol 181:128–135. Scholar
  51. Rodolfi L, Zittelli GC, Biondi N, Bonini G, Tredici MR, Padovani G (2009) Microalgae for oil: strain selection, induction of lipid synthesis and outdoor mass cultivation in a low-cost photobioreactor. Biotechnol Bioeng 102:100–112. Scholar
  52. Salama E, Kurade MB, Abou-shanab RAI, El-dalatony MM (2017) Recent progress in microalgal biomass production coupled with wastewater treatment for biofuel generation. Renew Sustain Energy Rev 79:1189–1211. Scholar
  53. Shchegolkova N, Shurshin K, Pogosyan S, Voronova E, Matorin D, Karyakin D (2018) Microalgae cultivation for wastewater treatment and biogas production at Moscow wastewater treatment plant. Water Sci Technol.
  54. Simionato D, Sforza E, Corteggiani Carpinelli E, Bertucco A, Giacometti GM, Morosinotto T (2011) Acclimation of Nannochloropsis gaditana to different illumination regimes: effects on lipids accumulation. Bioresour Technol 102:6026–6032. Scholar
  55. Sousa C, Compadre A, Vermuë M, Wijffels R (2013) Effect of oxygen at low and high light intensities on the growth of Neochloris oleoabundans. Algal Res 2:122–126. Scholar
  56. Sutherland DL, Turnbull MH, Craggs RJ (2014) Increased pond depth improves algal productivity and nutrient removal in wastewater treatment high rate algal ponds. Water Res 53:271–281. Scholar
  57. Talebi AF (2016) Potential use of algae for heavy metal bioremediation, a critical review. J Environ Manage. Scholar
  58. Tan X-B, Yang L-B, Zhang Y-L, Zhao F-C, Chu H-Q, Guo J (2015) Chlorella pyrenoidosa cultivation in outdoors using the diluted anaerobically digested activated sludge. Bioresour Technol 198:340–350. Scholar
  59. Tan X, Zhao X, Zhang Y, Zhou Y, Yang L, Zhang W (2017) Enhanced lipid and biomass production using alcohol wastewater as carbon source for Chlorella pyrenoidosa cultivation in anaerobically digested starch wastewater in outdoors. Bioresour Technol. Scholar
  60. Tredici MR, Zittelli GC (1998) Efficiency of sunlight utilization: tubular versus flat photobioreactors. Biotechnol Bioeng 57:187–197.<187::AID-BIT7>3.0.CO;2-JCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Ugwu CU, Aoyagi H, Uchiyama H (2008) Photobioreactors for mass cultivation of algae. Bioresour Technol 99:4021–4028. Scholar
  62. Usha MT, Chandra TS, Sarada R, Chauhan VS (2016) Removal of nutrients and organic pollution load from pulp and paper mill effluent by microalgae in outdoor open pond. Bioresour Technol. Scholar
  63. Van Den Hende S, Beelen V, Bore G, Boon N, Vervaeren H (2014) Up-scaling aquaculture wastewater treatment by microalgal bacterial flocs: from lab reactors to an outdoor raceway pond. Bioresour Technol 159:342–354. Scholar
  64. Villegas GIR, Fiamengo M, Fernández FGA, Grima EM (2017) Outdoor production of microalgae biomass at pilot-scale in seawater using centrate as the nutrient source. Algal Res 25:538–548. Scholar
  65. Winckelmann D, Bleeke F, Thomas B, Elle C, Klöck G (2015) Open pond cultures of indigenous algae grown on non-arable land in an arid desert using wastewater. Int Aquat Res 7:221–233. Scholar
  66. Woertz I, Feffer A, Lundquist T, Nelson Y (2009) Algae grown on dairy and municipal wastewater for simultaneous nutrient removal and lipid production for biofuel feedstock. J Environ Eng 135:1115–1122. Scholar
  67. Wu Y, Hu H, Yu Y, Zhang T, Zhu S, Zhuang L, Zhang X, Lu Y (2014) Microalgal species for sustainable biomass/lipid production using wastewater as resource: a review. Renew Sustain Energy Rev 33:675–688. Scholar
  68. Yuan Z, Wang Z, Takala J, Hiltunen E, Qin L, Xu Z, Qin X, Zhu L (2013) Scale-up potential of cultivating Chlorella zofingiensis in piggery wastewater for biodiesel production. Bioresour Technol 137:318–325. Scholar
  69. Zemke PE, Sommerfeld MR, Hu Q (2013) Assessment of key biological and engineering design parameters for production of Chlorella zofingiensis (Chlorophyceae) in outdoor photobioreactors. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol 97:5645–5655. Scholar
  70. Zhu L, Wang Z, Takala J, Hiltunen E, Qin L, Xu X, Qin Z, Yuan Z (2013) Scale-up potential of cultivating Chlorella zofingiensis in piggery wastewater for biodiesel production. Bioresource technology, 137:318–325. Scholar
  71. Zhu L, Wang Z, Shu Q, Takala J, Hiltunen E, Feng P, Yuan Z (2013) Nutrient removal and biodiesel production by integration of freshwater algae cultivation with piggery wastewater treatment. Water Res 47:4294–4302. Scholar
  72. Zhu LD, Xu ZB, Qin L, Wang ZM, Hiltunen E, Li ZH, Xu ZB, Qin L, Wang ZM, Hiltunen E, Oil ZHL (2016) Oil production from pilot-scale microalgae cultivation: an economics evaluation. Energy Source Part B Econ Plann Policy 11:11–17. Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Djamal Zerrouki
    • 1
  • Abdellah Henni
    • 1
  1. 1.University of Ouargla, Fac. des sciences appliquées, Lab. dynamique interaction et réactivités des systèmesOuarglaAlgeria

Personalised recommendations