Integration of Waste Treatment with Algal Cultivation for Sustainable Aquaculture Feed and Renewable Biofuel Production

EPA Grant Number: SU835318
Title: Integration of Waste Treatment with Algal Cultivation for Sustainable Aquaculture Feed and Renewable Biofuel Production
Investigators: Bouwer, Edward J. , Betenbaugh, Michael J. , Bohutskyi, Pavlo , Liu, Kexin , Payne, Julianne , Rogers, Jon , Rosenberg, Julian , Williams, Scott H. , Wilson, Olivia
Current Investigators: Bouwer, Edward J. , Betenbaugh, Michael J. , Bohutskyi, Pavlo , Byers, Natalie , Fung Shek, Coral J , Khaled Nasr, Laila , Liu, Kexin , Rosenberg, Julian
Institution: The Johns Hopkins University
EPA Project Officer: Hahn, Intaek
Phase: I
Project Period: August 15, 2012 through August 14, 2013
Project Amount: $15,000
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2012) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Challenge Area - Agriculture , P3 Challenge Area - Energy , P3 Awards , Sustainability


Considerable attention has been focused on energy and food production as well as the impact of C, N and P emissions on society and environmental sustainability. These global challenges are far from being solved, and will be addressed by the current project through development and implementation of an innovative technology that utilizes and recycles waste nutrients for sustainable biofuel and/or animal/aquaculture feed production. Algae have multiple advantages as a feedstock for biofuel and feed production: higher productivity; less competition with food; cultivation on non-arable lands; use of impaired water resources and solar energy; and CO2 assimilation. However, algal technologies are not yet economically viable. This project links students from different JHU departments and business partners into a team to advance microalgal biofuels development and subsequent implementation of this more environmentally-friendly process for generating energy and valuable algal-meal. The proposed research involves the integration of a number of vital elements for human prosperity and embodies a robust synergy of waste stream treatment, renewable energy generation, and food production.


The objective of this project is to develop, test and optimize a robust and sustainable process that converts agricultural and domestic organic waste, CO2, and sunlight into energy (biodiesel and biomethane) and/or algal-meal for animal/aquaculture feed. Specifically, the project includes investigation of algal cultivation in anaerobic digestion (AD) effluent and comparison of four alternative technologies for algal biomass utilization: (1) biological conversion to biogas through AD; (2) preliminary lipids extraction and AD of defatted residues to biogas; (3) utilization of whole algal biomass for fish farming; and (4) preliminary lipids extraction and usage of defatted algae as algal-meal for fish-farming.


The technical milestones of this proposal provide innovations in coupling AD effluent and photosynthetic algae cultivation. These include: (1) control and management of pathogens in complex algal-bacterial population; (2) augmenting the productivity microalgal growth systems; (3) optimizing the conversion of algal biomass into biomethane, through thermochemical or enzymatic pretreatment; and (4) ensuring consistent composition of algal biomass as premium-grade aquaculture feed. Moreover, the proposed research will explore fundamental operating parameters; nutrient (N, P) and contamination flow analysis and balance; and quality control of biomass composition to achieve the most efficient production rates.

Expected Results:

The proposed project supports new research efforts to develop sustainable biofuel and food production by combining algal technology with AD in an efficient process to convert agricultural and sewage waste, CO2, and sunlight into biodiesel, biomethane, and algal meal. A student team will perform bench-scale experiments, design a pilot-scale algal bioreactor based on their initial findings, and perform life-cycle and techno-economic analyses.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 6 publications for this project

Journal Articles:

Journal Articles have been submitted on this project: View all 1 journal articles for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

waste-to-value management, waste-to-energy, carbon sequestration, algal biodiesel, biomethane, anaerobic digestion, enzymatic or thermochemical pretreatment

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report