Resource Recovery and Wastewater Treatment 
Using Microalgal Systems

Project Summary

Research Advisor: Ian Bradley (Environmental Engineering)

Project Theme: Pollutant Source Control

Nutrient discharges from non-point and point source polluters lead to the decreased resilience and eutrophication of our waterways, and wastewater treatment plants are under increasing pressure to reduce their discharge of nutrients to the aquatic environment. Microalgal systems have widely been identified as a promising technology that may enable sustainable, cost-efficient treatment of wastewater by assimilating nutrients into algal cells and by generating carbon-rich biomass that may be used for downstream bioenergy applications. However, these systems are poorly understood, and the links between the algal community and system performance have yet to be fully uncovered. This REU project will investigate the use of microalgal systems for wastewater treatment and the relationship between environmental conditions, algal community structure, and system performance, with an emphasis on understanding the microbial ecology and the algal community members that drive system function. The REU student will perform field work collecting environmental samples, run laboratory experiments, and use analytical techniques and equipment. Students will also have the opportunity to learn advanced molecular methods and may examine microbial community structure and function by using methods such as polymerase chain reaction (PCR). 

Primary Activities: Laboratory experiments; Wet-chemistry; Molecular methods

Skills/Courses Recommended: Basic skills in wet chemistry; Interest in environmental engineering and wastewater treatment; Knowledge or interest in molecular methods a plus. 

Anticipated Conference Participation: Water Environment Federation; Water Environment and Reuse Foundation