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Applications of microalgal biofilms for wastewater treatment and bioenergy production

Miranda1 Ana F, Ramkumar Narasimhan, Andriotis Constandino,Höltkemeier Thorben,Yasmin Aneela, Rochfort Simone, Wlodkowic Donald, Morrison Paul, Roddick Felicity,Spangenberg German,Lal Banwari, Subudhi Sanjukta, Mourado Aidyn , 2017

Biotechnol Biofuels (2017) 10:120, DOI 10.1186/s13068-017-0798-9

Abstract

Microalgae have shown clear advantages for the production of biofuels compared with energy crops.Apart from their high growth rates and substantial lipid/triacylglycerol yields, microalgae can grow in wastewaters (animal, municipal and mining wastewaters) efficiently removing their primary nutrients (C, N, and P), heavy metals and micropollutants, and they do not compete with crops for arable lands. However, fundamental barriers to the industrial application of microalgae for biofuel production still include high costs of removing the algae from the water and the water from the algae which can account for up to 30–40% of the total cost of biodiesel production.Algal biofilms are becoming increasingly popular as a strategy for the concentration of microalgae, making harvesting/dewatering easier and cheaper. Results: We have isolated and characterized a number of natural microalgal biofilms from freshwater, saline lakes and marine habitats. Structurally, these biofilms represent complex consortia of unicellular and multicellular, photosynthetic and heterotrophic inhabitants, such as cyanobacteria, microalgae, diatoms, bacteria, and fungi. Biofilm #52 was used as feedstock for bioenergy production. Dark fermentation of its biomass by Enterobacter cloacae DT-1 led to the production of 2.4 mol of H2/mol of reduced sugar. The levels and compositions of saturated, monosaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids in Biofilm #52 were target-wise modified through the promotion of the growth of selected individual photosynthetic inhabitants. Photosynthetic components isolated from different biofilms were used for tailoring of novel biofilms designed for (i) treatment of specific types of wastewaters, such as reverse osmosis concentrate, (ii) compositions of total fatty acids with a new degree of unsaturation and (iii) bio-flocculation and concentration of commercial microalgal cells. Treatment of different types of wastewaters with biofilms showed a reduction in the concentrations of key nutrients, such as phosphates, ammonia, nitrates, selenium and heavy metals. Conclusions: This multidisciplinary study showed the new potential of natural biofilms, their individual photosynthetic inhabitants and assembled new algal/cyanobacterial biofilms as t

Keyword(s)

Biofilms; Bio-hydrogen; Biofuel; Cyanobacteria; Microalgae; Wastewater treatment