Removal of pollutants from wastewater by photosynthetic microorganisms
My research focuses on the selection and analysis of Nordic microalgae, which grow on carbon dioxide and nutrients from local flue gases and wastewater, while at the same time removing pollutants like pharmaceuticals or heavy metals.
Martin Plöhn is a PhD student within Indsutrial Doctoral School at Umeå University.
The aim of my project is to investigate environmental and economic sustainability of biomass production by Nordic microalgae. Our culture collection of North Swedish strains as well as the NIVA algae culture collection is screened for suitable microalgae. Instead of providing expensive and energy demanding fertilized media, the microalgae grow on wastewater (municipal and industrial) and flue gases.
This approach will help to mitigate carbon dioxide emissions from Swedish cogeneration plants, recycle important elements from polluted water (e.g. nitrogen and phosphorus), and at the same time allow the production of energy-rich compounds to be used as advanced biofuels, smart biofertilizers and carbon-neutral and valuable polymers such as polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA).
Since different types of wastewater contain various mixtures of unwanted micropollutants the composition and fluxes of these components must be controlled in the biomass utilization process. For further use of the biomass, fundamental knowledge of the behavior of different chemical species (both against organic pollutants and heavy metals) is crucial.
I currently select microalgae with high biomass production and water remediation properties. Those strains will be grown in larger scale to analyze the biomass, extracts and waste streams regarding the accumulated or metabolized pollutants.