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Water Res. 2006 Aug;40(15):2799-815.

Algal-bacterial processes for the treatment of hazardous contaminants: a review.

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Department of Biotechnology, Center for Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, Lund University, P.O. Box 124, S-22100 Lund, Sweden.


Microalgae enhance the removal of nutrients, organic contaminants, heavy metals, and pathogens from domestic wastewater and furnish an interesting raw material for the production of high-value chemicals (algae metabolites) or biogas. Photosynthetic oxygen production also reduces the need for external aeration, which is especially advantageous for the treatment of hazardous pollutants that must be biodegraded aerobically but might volatilize during mechanical aeration. Recent studies have therefore shown that when proper methods for algal selection and cultivation are used, it is possible to use microalgae to produce the O(2) required by acclimatized bacteria to biodegrade hazardous pollutants such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, phenolics, and organic solvents. Well-mixed photobioreactors with algal biomass recirculation are recommended to protect the microalgae from effluent toxicity and optimize light utilization efficiency. The optimum biomass concentration to maintain in the system depends mainly on the light intensity and the reactor configuration: At low light intensity, the biomass concentration should be optimized to avoid mutual shading and dark respiration whereas at high light intensity, a high biomass concentration can be useful to protect microalgae from light inhibition and optimize the light/dark cycle frequency. Photobioreactors can be designed as open (stabilization ponds or high rate algal ponds) or enclosed (tubular, flat plate) systems. The latter are generally costly to construct and operate but more efficient than open systems. The best configuration to select will depend on factors such as process safety, land cost, and biomass use. Biomass harvest remains a limitation but recent progresses have been made in the selection of flocculating strains, the application of bioflocculants, or the use of immobilized biomass systems.

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