Research Grants/Fellowships/SBIR

Developing Commercially Viable Culture Media from Wastewaters Optimized for the Emerging Microalgae-based Biofuel Industry

EPA Grant Number: SU836016
Title: Developing Commercially Viable Culture Media from Wastewaters Optimized for the Emerging Microalgae-based Biofuel Industry
Investigators: Kent, Martha , Puruhito, Emil , Sommerfeld, Milton , Wray, Joshua T.
Institution: Arizona State University - Main Campus
EPA Project Officer: Lank, Gregory
Project Period: August 15, 2011 through August 14, 2012
Project Amount: $15,000
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2011) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Challenge Area - Agriculture , P3 Challenge Area - Water , P3 Awards , Sustainability



This project will investigate the feasibility of using standard wastewater treatment practices to develop multiple wastewater streams into commercially viable and inexpensive algae culture media for biofuel production.


Standard wastewater treatment practices will be deployed to treat both agricultural and municipal waste streams, followed by characterization of the treated effluent in terms of nutrient content and contaminating species. The media will then be tested by growing a local robust and high oil content strain of algae. Each batch of treated wastewater will be tested first independently and then simultaneously with all other wastewater sources for comparison using a local algae strain known for its ability to accumulate oil used for biofuels. The tests will be completed in outdoor flat panel bioreactors to simulate small scale real world production scenarios.

Expected Results:

The expected output of this project is to provide a better understanding of how common wastewater strategies and processing procedures can be utilized to create a low-cost cultivation media for algae for biofuel production. The overall cost for producing the media, along with data on growth rates and total lipid content of the algae grown on the media will be the criteria used to evaluate the best available processing strategies. The data collected will be from outdoor photobioreactors in real production scenarios so that any promising procedures can be easily adopted into commercial production. The potential outcome from the project aligns well with the P3 principles by benefiting people with new jobs, improved water and air quality, while reducing nutrient pollution from our current agricultural system by recapturing waste nutrients and displacing unsustainable inorganic fertilizer products. The project is aimed at providing additional revenue or reducing production costs for agricultural producers, as well as assuring that the biofuel industry does not compete with the food crop industry for fertilizer supplies.

Supplemental Keywords:

bioremediation, resource recovery, reuse, renewable feedstock, agricultural byproducts, watersheds, groundwater, biodiesel, waste to energy