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Natural pigments and biogas recovery from microalgae grown in wastewater

Journal Contribution - Journal Article

This study assessed the recovery of natural pigments (phycobiliproteins) and bioenergy (biogas) from microalgae grown in wastewater. A consortium of microalgae, mainly composed by Nostoc, Phormidium, and Geitlerinema, known to have high phycobiliproteins content, was grown in photobioreactors. The growth medium was composed by secondary effluent from a high rate algal pond (HRAP) along with the anaerobic digestion centrate, which aimed to enhance the N/P ratio, given the lack of nutrients in the secondary effluent. Additionally, the centrate is still a challenging anaerobic digestion residue since the high nitrogen concentrations have to be removed before disposal. Removal efficiencies up to 52% of COD, 86% of NH4+-N, and 100% of phosphorus were observed. The biomass composition was monitored over the experimental period in order to ensure stable cyanobacterial dominance in the mixed culture. Phycocyanin and phycoerythrin were extracted from harvested biomass, achieving maximum concentrations of 20.1 and 8.1 mg/g dry weight, respectively. The residual biomass from phycobiliproteins extraction was then used to produce biogas, with final methane yields ranging from 159 to 199 mL CH4/g VS. According to the results, by combining the extraction of pigments and the production of biogas from residual biomass, we would not only obtain high-value compounds, but also more energy (around 5-10% higher), as compared to the single recovery of biogas. The proposed process poses an example of resource recovery from biomass grown in wastewater, moving toward a circular bioeconomy.
Journal: ACS Sustainable Chemistry and Engineering
Issue: 29
Volume: 8
Pages: 10691 - 10701
Publication year:2020