Stratified Multilayer Algal-biofilm Reclamation Technology (SMART)

EPA Grant Number: SU839295
Title: Stratified Multilayer Algal-biofilm Reclamation Technology (SMART)
Investigators: Zhang, Yongli
Institution: Wayne State University
EPA Project Officer: Page, Angela
Phase: I
Project Period: November 1, 2017 through October 31, 2018
Project Amount: $14,954
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2017) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: P3 Awards , Sustainability , P3 Challenge Area - Water


To achieve the overall objective, three research objectives are designed: 1) develop a SMART pilot reactor for efficient wastewater treatment and sustainable biofuel feedstock generation; 2) develop IoT tool and framework as a control system for algae cultivation; and 3) evaluate and optimize SMART and IoT technologies for nutrients/CECs removal, algal biomass production, and environmental/economic cost. This project provides a great platform for sustainability education at both university and community level, e.g., incorporating the research results into a “Sustainable Engineering Certificate” program for college students and local working professionals. Collectively, this project is designed to address sustainability challenges in people, prosperity, and the planet, including eco-system service via the innovative SMART technology for nutrient/CECs removal, resource security via renewable bioenergy feedstock production, costefficiency of wastewater treatment and bioenergy generation, and sustainability education


Conventional wastewater treatment is energy intensive and lacks cost-effective ways to remove ubiquitous and persistent chemicals of emerging concerns (CECs) that pose risks to environmental and human health. The integration of wastewater treatment and algae cultivation has emerged as a promising alternative and a sustainable water-energy strategy to treat wastewater, while at the same time generating algal bioenergy. However, challenges such as low productivity and low cost-efficiency are preventing the application of algal wastewater treatment. In this application, a novel wastewater-based algae cultivation strategy, Stratified Multilayer Algalbiofilm Reclamation Technology (SMART) coupled with Internet of Things (IoT), is proposed to address these challenges. The overall objective of this work is to study the mechanisms underlying mixotrophically grown microalgae biofilm and design the SMART reactor coupled with IoT for efficient wastewater treatment and sustainable bioenergy feedstock generation. SMART consists of microalgae biofilm ordered in multiple supporting layers under mixotrophic conditions. The proposed research is potentially transformative because it is the first to generate new knowledge to understand the mechanisms of microalgae biofilm in mixotrophic cultivation and the impacts of these mechanisms on nutrients/CECs removal and algae feedstock productivity. It harnesses the benefits of mixotrophic growth’s high efficiency, i.e. capable of subsisting on inorganic and organic carbons, thus unaffected by limited light. Additionally, microalgae biofilm has a high resistance to environmental stresses and, most importantly, the harvesting cost is low. At the same time, the utilization of IoT can help to automatically control multiple growth parameters in real time with low cost. This proposed work is one pioneer study that would bring IoT to a novel algae-wastewater treatment for processing control and optimization

Expected Results:

The expected outputs of this project include a novel SMART technology coupled with IoT technology for wastewater-based algae cultivation. These results enable the design of the innovative SMART technology for efficient wastewater treatment and sustainable feedstock production. The result measurement, evaluation, and demonstration will be carried out through experimental design, data collection, pilot reactor demonstration, and life cycle modeling/optimization.

Supplemental Keywords:

Algal Wastewater Treatment, Sustainable Design, Pollution Removal, IoT

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final