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Biodesalination: a case study for applications of photosynthetic bacteria in water treatment

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Jaime Amezaga, Professor Catherine BiggsORCiD, Dr Catherine Gandy


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Shortage of freshwater is a serious problem in many regions worldwide, and is expected to become even more urgent over the next decades as a result of increased demand for food production and adverse effects of climate change. Vast water resources in the oceans can only be tapped into if sustainable, energy-efficient technologies for desalination are developed. Energization of desalination by sunlight through photosynthetic organisms offers a potential opportunity to exploit biological processes for this purpose. Cyanobacterial cultures in particular can generate a large biomass in brackish and seawater, thereby forming a low-salt reservoir within the saline water. The latter could be used as an ion exchanger through manipulation of transport proteins in the cell membrane. In this article, we use the example of biodesalination as a vehicle to review the availability of tools and methods for the exploitation of cyanobacteria in water biotechnology. Issues discussed relate to strain selection, environmental factors, genetic manipulation, ion transport, cell-water separation, process design, safety, and public acceptance

Publication metadata

Author(s): Amezaga JM, Amtmann A, Biggs CA, Bond T, Gandy CJ, Honsbein A, Karunakaran E, Lawton L, Madsen MA, Minas K, Templeton MR

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Plant Physiology

Year: 2014

Volume: 164

Issue: 4

Pages: 1661-1676

Print publication date: 31/03/2014

Online publication date: 08/04/2014

Acceptance date: 05/03/2014

ISSN (print): 0032-0889

ISSN (electronic): 1532-2548

Publisher: American Society of Plant Biologists


DOI: 10.1104/pp.113.233973


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Funder referenceFunder name
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council
EP/I029346/1Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council
EP/J004871/1Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council