Indigenous microalgae-activated sludge cultivation system for wastewater treatment

University dissertation from Västerås : Mälardalen University

Abstract: The municipal wastewater is mainly composed of water containing anthropogenic wastes that are rich in nutrients such as carbon, nitrogen and phosphorous. The cost for biological treatment of wastewater is increasing globally due to the population growth in urban cities. In general, the activated sludge (AS) process is a biological nutrient removal process used in wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs). The AS is composed of different microorganisms in which bacteria play a crucial role in wastewater treatment (WWT). During the process, air is bubbled to supply oxygen and methanol is added to improve nitrogen removal, which is released as a gas. Phosphorous is removed in the expense of precipitation chemicals. Altogether, the current process requires electrical energy, precipitation chemicals, handling of excess sludge and it emits carbon dioxide (CO2) as a by-product. This process is still in practise in the WWTPs since 1914 although numerous modifications are implemented to meet the stringent regulations in the European Union and globally.Microalgae are microorganisms that perform photosynthesis like plants. They are green and reproduce fast using available nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorous) and CO2 from their environment in the presence of light. As a result of photosynthesis, oxygen is released as waste gas. The synthesised oxygen during this process can be implemented to support the AS bacteria that leads to the microalgae activated sludge (MAAS) process. The main advantage is combined removal of nutrients.The vision of the research is to implement the indigenous microalgae cultivation in activated sludge process to consume CO2 and recover the nutrients from wastewater. This study is performed to improve the understanding of the process such as: light utilisation, nutrient removal and recovery of the biomass from wastewater in closed photo-bioreactors. Photo-bioreactors are vessels where the cultivation is carried out in the presence of light. At first, the influence of the light spectrum on micro-algal cultivation is investigated for photosynthetic growth. This is followed by operational challenges of the microalgae cultivation during the AS process. The process is experimentally performed in the photo-bioreactors with different treatment time of the raw wastewater. The results showed that 2 - 6 days of treatment time can be used for reducing nutrients in wastewater if the process is optimised further. Also, nutrient ratio is analysed for the availability of the micro-algal growth. Furthermore, the biogas potential of MAAS showed a biogas yield of about 60-80% within 5 to 9 days.At last, the experimental verification of chemically precipitated wastewater showed limitation of phosphorous for micro-algal growth. Additionally, the optimal oxygen supply through light response is verified for photo-bioreactors. The outcome of this study shows that knowing the right conditions can lower the treatment time. By doing so, a stable nutrient removal and reduction of precipitation chemicals can be established as well as a better recovery of valuable nutrients as phosphorous and nitrogen.

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