Researchers in Spain have launched a pilot facility to test if microalgae can be an effective tool in treating wastewater.
The researchers from Polytechnic University of Catalonia in Barcelona are funded by the European Commission. The pilot facility treats of volume of between 3,000 and 5,000 litres of wastewater per day without using chemicals.
“The main aim is to develop innovative and sustainable technologies for treating wastewater that will, in turn, generate value-added products and zero waste,” according to a statement from the university.
The researchers say their method is efficient at removing nutrients and other pollutants. A statement from the university sought to explain the mechanics of the project.
“The UPC will implement three photobioreactors — transparent, closed production systems — for the development and optimal culture of algae. The photobioreactors, which each have a capacity of 10 m3, will be fed with domestic sewage and agricultural wastewater, which will provide the nutrients necessary for the growth of algae and biomass,” the statement said.
Solar ultrafiltration and disinfection will be used to treat the wastewater.
“The biomass will be separated from the treated water and digested by anaerobic co-digestion for methane biogas production. The richness of the biogas obtained will be much higher than that which results from conventional digestion processes, as it will pass through an absorption column that will retain volatile gases and other pollutants that diminish the richness of the product,” it continued.
Solid waste from digestion processes will be used to produce organic fertilizers after they are stabilized in artificial wetlands, the statement said.
This pilot plant is part of the INCOVER Project, which supports two other pilot plants, as well. “Taking into account the current global water scarcity and the expensive operation and maintenance cost of wastewater treatment, INCOVER concept has been designed to move wastewater treatment from being primarily a sanitation technology towards a bioproduct recovery industry and a recycled water supplier,” according to funding information about INCOVER posted on the European Commission website.
INCOVER’s main aim “is to develop innovative and sustainable added-value technologies for a resource recovery-based treatment of wastewater, using smart operation monitoring and control methodologies,” according to its own website.
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