Microalgae, tech to treat water waste: IIT BHU research
Researchers from the department of biochemical engineering, Indian Institute of Technology of Banaras Hindu University (IIT-BHU) have successfully applied microalgae and machine learning to treat wastewater.
Under this application, microalgae in photo bioreactor can clean up to 90% of wastewater by setting appropriate temperature, light intensity, carbon dioxide content, pH level, which is better than the current bacterial based water treatment process.
Dr Vishal Mishra, assistant professor of biochemical engineering, said that according to the United Nations World Water Development’s report titled ‘Valuing Water’, freshwater use has increased six-fold globally in the last century.
“Despite this, more than 80 percent of the wastewater is discharged into water streams without treatment. The conventional water treatment process currently in place is extremely costly. These include high electricity costs, sludge disposal and huge amounts of carbon dioxide emissions,” he said.
“Biological wastewater treatment mediated by microalgae would clean the wastewater up to 90% and also high-quality compost in the form of microalgae biomass will prove to be very useful,” he added.
Vishal Singh, a PhD student in the research team, said that machine learning tools have been successfully implemented to optimise microalgae-based wastewater treatment process and the research has been published in Netherland based Biochemical Engineering Journal (IF3.97).
The information gained from this research can aid in experimental design, lead to large-scale wastewater treatment and can be used for designing microalgae based tertiary wastewater treatment plant.
“Besides, it could be easily integrated with current secondary wastewater treatment plants, where treatment is carried out by bacteria. Microalgae wastewater treatment plants can even entirely replace the current conventional wastewater treatment plants,” he said.
“The treated water generated from the microalgae-based treatment plant meets the criteria set by WHO and can be easily discharged in the rivers. Moreover, the treated water can be used for irrigation and cleaning purposes and thus would help decrease the load on available natural freshwater resources,’ Singh said.
“This will benefit society by solving the problem of the shortage of drinking water,” he said.
“The protein supplement and microbial biomass produced after water treatment can be used for the production of animal feed, fertiliser and biofuel. Microalgae also consume a large amount of carbon dioxide from atmosphere during the process of photosynthesis and generates oxygen,” he said. “Decreasing the load of carbon dioxide in atmosphere by microalgae will resolve the issue of global warming to a great extent,” he added.