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Environ Sci Technol. 2016 Mar 1;50(5):2538-45. doi: 10.1021/acs.est.5b04824. Epub 2016 Feb 17.

Valorization of Flue Gas by Combining Photocatalytic Gas Pretreatment with Microalgae Production.

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Research Group Sustainable Energy, Air & Water Technology, Department of Bioscience Engineering and ‡Systemic Physiological and Ecotoxicological Research (SPHERE), University of Antwerp , Groenenborgerlaan 171, 2020 Antwerp, Belgium.


Utilization of flue gas for algae cultivation seems to be a promising route because flue gas from fossil-fuel combustion processes contains the high amounts of carbon (CO2) and nitrogen (NO) that are required for algae growth. NO is a poor nitrogen source for algae cultivation because of its low reactivity and solublilty in water and its toxicity for algae at high concentrations. Here, we present a novel strategy to valorize NO from flue gas as feedstock for algae production by combining a photocatalytic gas pretreatment unit with a microalgal photobioreactor. The photocatalytic air pretreatment transforms NO gas into NO2 gas and thereby enhances the absorption of NOx in the cultivation broth. The absorbed NOx will form NO2(-) and NO3(-) that can be used as a nitrogen source by algae. The effect of photocatalytic air pretreatment on the growth and biomass productivity of the algae Thalassiosira weissflogii in a semicontinuous system aerated with a model flue gas (1% CO2 and 50 ppm of NO) is investigated during a long-term experiment. The integrated system makes it possible to produce algae with NO from flue gas as the sole nitrogen source and reduces the NOx content in the exhaust gas by 84%.

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