Year Established: 2018 Start Date: 2018-03-01 End Date: 2019-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $19,869 Total Non-Federal Funds: $39,756
Principal Investigators: YULIE MENESES, Ashraf AlyHassan
Abstract: Wastewater treatment is an expensive yet necessary consideration in environmental engineering. The most common approach used to treat municipal and industrial waste is the activated sludge process. Aerating is an important factor in this process, which is responsible for 30 to 80 percent of a treatment plant's total operating cost. As such, wastewater treatment costs could be significantly reduced if aeration requirements are eliminated or if an alternative, cheaper process is found. The goal of this project is to reduce the cost of wastewater treatment and eliminate the need for aeration through the immobilization of a concentrated mixed culture of activated sludge and algae on immobilized beads, which can be easily introduced, recycled, or disposed. In the proposed system, bacteria consume the organics in the wastewater and provide carbon dioxide for the algae to grow. In turn, the algae provide oxygen, improve the quality of the water, and yield biomass for the production of biofuel or other uses. Importantly, the concentrated algae/activated sludge mixture is trapped in a small, porous sphere or "bead," a format that forces both organisms to work together to overcome oxygen and carbon dioxide mass transfer limitations. The objectives are to (1) Optimize operating conditions: bead ratio to wastewater, and temperature, (2) Evaluate the effect on nutrient removal of algae growth vs. bacteria/algae co-culture, (3) Optimize lipid extraction from algae beads. In doing so, this project is expected to optimize the design and performance of the proposed process for upscaling, providing scientific data for the development of a strong proposal to be submitted to NSF in the near future.