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Biodesalination: an emerging technology for targeted removal of Na+ and Cl- from seawater by cyanobacteria

Lookup NU author(s): Nikolaos Minas, Dr Catherine Gandy, Professor Jaime AmezagaORCiD, Professor Catherine BiggsORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC 4.0).


Although desalination by membrane processes is a possible solution to the problem of freshwater supply, related cost and energy demands prohibit its use on a global scale. Hence, there is an emerging necessity for alternative, energy and cost-efficient methods for water desalination. Cyanobacteria are oxygen-producing, photosynthetic bacteria that actively grow in vast blooms both in fresh and seawater bodies. Moreover, cyanobacteria can grow with minimal nutrient requirements and under natural sunlight. Taking these observations together, a consortium of five British Universities was formed to test the principle of using cyanobacteria as ion exchangers, for the specific removal of Na+ and Cl from seawater. This project consisted of the isolation and characterisation of candidate strains, with central focus on their potential to be osmotically and ionically adaptable. The selection panel resulted in the identification of two Euryhaline strains, one of freshwater (Synechocystis sp. Strain PCC 6803) and one of marine origin (Synechococcus sp. Strain PCC 7002) (Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen). Other work packages were as follows. Genetic manipulations potentially allowed for the expression of a light-driven, Cl-selective pump in both strains, therefore, enhancing the bioaccumulation of specific ions within the cell (University of Glasgow). Characterisation of surface properties under different salinities (University of Sheffield), ensured that cell–liquid separation efficiency would be maximised post-treatment, as well as monitoring the secretion of mucopolysaccharides in the medium during cell growth.

Publication metadata

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

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Desalination and Water Treatment

Year: 2014

Volume: 55

Issue: 10

Pages: 2647-2668

Online publication date: 13/10/2014

Acceptance date: 16/06/2014

Date deposited: 16/01/2015

ISSN (print): 1944-3994

ISSN (electronic): 1944-3986

Publisher: Taylor & Francis


DOI: 10.1080/19443994.2014.940647


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