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Kinetic modelling of microalgae cultivation for wastewater treatment and carbon dioxide sequestration

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Valentine Eze, Dr Sharon Velasquez OrtaORCiD, Professor Maria Orta Ledesma



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


A simple and robust microalgae kinetic model has been developed for application in the prediction and control of algae cultivations in wastewater. The microalgae kinetic model was calibrated using experimental cultivation data from Desmodesmus sp. to determine specific microalgae growth rates (μmax and μmaxNO3), microalgae death rates (μd), and the NH4+ to NO3 oxidation rate (μB). Model parameters obtained were: μmax = 0.17 day−1, μd = 0.004 day−1, and μB = 0.14 day−1. Microalgae specific growth rate based on NO3 alone (μmaxNO3 = 0.1 day−1) was lower than the overall growth rate (μmax). The kinetic model was validated using additional experimental data for the Desmodesmus sp. and Scenedesmus obliquus cultivation in wastewater containing 0% and 7% landfill leachate, with accuracy above 98% in all cases. These results demonstrated the kinetic model was accurate in predicting microalgae growth, wastewater nutrient removal, and changes in the culture media pH. Biomass productivity of the algae culture was associated with an exponential increase in the media pH, which led to ammonia volatilisation and decreased carbon intake. Between 28.8 and 29.7% of the initial NH4+ was lost to ammonia volatilisation in wastewater containing 7% landfill leachate. Hence, loss of ammonium nitrogen contained in domestic wastewater must be avoided to ensure steady and efficient inorganic carbon utilisation which inherently maximises biomass production efficiency. The optimal pH for the microalgae culture was 8.1, at which point microalgae could achieve about 99% carbon fixation efficiency. To ensure constant pH in the microalgae growing system, immediate removal of the OH generated is needed, which could be facilitated by injections of 1.14 g CO2 and 0.067 g OH per gram of produced algae when using NH4+ nutrient, and 1.54 g of CO2 per gram of produced algae when using NO3 nutrient. This could be done in a wastewater pond by using an optical density-controlled smart CO2 injection system.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Eze V, Velasquez-Orta SB, Hernandez-Garcia A, Monje-Ramirez I, Orta-Ledesma MT

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Algal Research

Year: 2018

Volume: 32

Pages: 131-141

Print publication date: 01/06/2018

Online publication date: 02/04/2018

Acceptance date: 26/03/2018

Date deposited: 12/04/2018

ISSN (print): 2211-9264

ISSN (electronic): 2211-9264

Publisher: Elsevier


DOI: 10.1016/j.algal.2018.03.015


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Funder referenceFunder name
British Council, UK (Grant no. 275897070)