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Algae > Volume 30(1); 2015 > Article
Algae 2015;30(1): 67-79. doi: https://doi.org/10.4490/algae.2015.30.1.067
Low algal diversity systems are a promising method for biodiesel production in wastewater fed open reactors
Meenakshi Bhattacharjee1 and Evan Siemann1,*

1Department of Biosciences, Rice University, 6100 Main St., Houston, TX 77005, USA
*Corresponding Author  Email: siemann@rice.edu
Planktivorous fish which limit zooplankton grazing have been predicted to increase algal biodiesel production in wastewater fed open reactors. In addition, tanks with higher algal diversity have been predicted to be more stable, more productive, and to more fully remove nutrients from wastewater. To test these predictions, we conducted a 14-week experiment in Houston, TX using twelve 2,270-L open tanks continuously supplied with wastewater. Tanks received algal composition (monocultures or diverse assemblage) and trophic (fish or no fish) treatments in a full-factorial design. Monocultures produced more algal and fatty acid methyl ester (FAME) mass than diverse tanks. More than 80% of lipids were converted to FAME indicating potentially high production for conversion to biodiesel (up to 0.9 T ha-1 y-1). Prolific algal growth lowered temperature and levels of total dissolved solids in the tanks and increased pH and dissolved oxygen compared to supply water. Algae in the tanks removed 91% of nitrate-N and 53% of phosphorus from wastewater. Monocultures were not invaded by other algal species. Fish did not affect any variables. Our results indicated that algae can be grown in open tank bioreactors using wastewater as a nutrient source. The stable productivity of monocultures suggests that this may be a viable production method to procure algal biomass for biodiesel production.
Key words: biofuel; fatty acid methyl ester; monoculture; open reactor; wastewater

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