Waste to Fuel: Design of a Landfill Algae Bioreactor

EPA Grant Number: SU835081
Title: Waste to Fuel: Design of a Landfill Algae Bioreactor
Investigators: Olson, Mira S. , Cairncross, Richard A. , Davis, Edward Christopher , Pant, Prateek Ghanshyam , Hurd, Eliya M. , Hsuan, Grace , Spatari, Sabrina , Wang, Sheng , Kilham, Susan
Current Investigators: Olson, Mira S. , Cairncross, Richard A. , Davis, Edward Christopher , Hurd, Eliya M. , Mundackal, Ashley , Rowntree, Bob , Comer, Carolyn , Lister, Eric , Hughes, Erin , Sniffen, Kaitlin , Wenrick, Matthew , Sparaco, Megan , Spatari, Sabrina , Kilham, Susan , Ahmed, Tausif
Institution: Drexel University
EPA Project Officer: Hahn, Intaek
Phase: I
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 - Air Quality , P3 Challenge Area - Safe and Sustainable Water Resources , P3 Awards , Sustainable and Healthy Communities


The objective of this project is to design a pilot-scale surface-pond algae bioreactor for a local landfill using on-site landfill leachate and landfill gas as feed stocks. The design of the algae bioreactor will be informed by bench-scale laboratory experiments designed to determine the optimal design parameters, including leachate:pond water dilution, harvesting time for optimal algal oil content, and the use of chitosan as a flocculant for harvesting mature algal cells.


This project tests the viability of producing valuable energy products from landfill waste streams, and provides a site-specific evaluation of the economic and technical feasibility as well as the environmental sustainability of a strategy to combine waste remediation and renewable liquid fuel production in one integrated operation. The economic feasibility of cultivating algae for liquid fuel production may be attained by coupling algae biodiesel production with other processes, in this case leachate treatment and CO2 emissions reduction at landfills. A senior design team along with graduate and undergraduate researchers will design the pilot-scale algae bioreactor based on bench-scale experiments, life-cycle and techno-economic analyses, and a full-scale feasibility study performed by a previous student design team.

Expected Results:

Results from this project will help determine the feasibility of implementing full-scale algae bioreactors for production of fuel-grade oil using waste streams from municipal solid waste landfills.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 1 publications for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

biodiesel, waste to energy, hazardous waste remediation, bio-based feedstocks

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report