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PLoS One. 2013 Nov 22;8(11):e81631. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0081631. eCollection 2013.

The effect of CO2 on algal growth in industrial waste water for bioenergy and bioremediation applications.

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School of Marine and Tropical Biology, James Cook University, Townsville, Australia.


The energy, mining and mineral processing industries are point sources of metal-contaminated waste water and carbon dioxide (CO2). Freshwater macroalgae from the genus Oedogonium can be grown in metal-contaminated waste water to generate biomass for bioenergy applications and concomitantly bioremediate metals. However, interactions between CO2 addition and algal growth, which can affect bioremediation, remain untested. The addition of CO2 to algal cultures in the Ash Dam Water (ADW) from a coal-fired power station increased the biomass productivity of Oedogonium sp. from 6.8 g dry weight (DW) m(-2) d(-1) to a maximum of 22.5 g DW m(-2) d(-1). The greater productivity increased the rate of bioremediation of most elements. However, over time carbon-amended cultures experienced a decline in productivity. Possible explanations include metal toxicity at low pH or essential trace element limitation as a result of competition between toxic and essential trace elements for uptake into algae. Higher productivity increased bioremediation rate and yielded more biomass for bioenergy applications, making maintenance of maximum productivity the central aim of the integrated culture model. To do so it will be necessary to resolve the mechanisms responsible for declining yields over time in carbon-amended cultures. Regardless, our data demonstrate that freshwater macroalgae are ideal candidates for bioremediation of metal-contaminated waste streams. Algal culture delivered significant improvement in ADW quality, reducing 5 elements that were initially in excess of water quality criteria (Al, As, Cd, Ni and Zn) to meet guidelines within two to four weeks.

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