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Microalgae purify wastewater

3 March 2020

Scientists at the Joint Institute for High Temperatures of the Russian Academy of Sciences together with colleagues from the Indian University of Uttaranchal have developed a method for treating wastewater using microalgae. In addition, he was successfully tested on the waters of the Bindal River.

Professor of the Faculty of Chemistry, head of the scientific group Vinod Kumara notes: "Biological analysis of the water in the Bindal River showed that it is heavily contaminated with heavy metals: lead, iron, nickel, zinc, copper, as well as harmful bacteria, animal and human waste. These pollutants are harmful to humans, domestic animals and aquatic organisms. Such water is unsuitable for agriculture".

The first phase of the experiment involved the use of several tens of liters of contaminated water where microalgae were placed. The result is a significant decrease:

  • total number of bacteria and E. coli – 90%;
  • organic and inorganic compounds – 90%;
  • total organic carbon;
  • alkalinity and hardness of water – 70%;
  • heavy metal content: zinc, lead, copper, iron, nickel – 90%.

To test the suitability of previously contaminated water for the living of aquatic organisms four aquarium fish were placed in purified water for 96 hours. What is the result? The weight of the fish increased and their health and well-being were found to be satisfactory. Also biodiesel was obtained from algal biomass which was used to purify contaminated water. Scientists are already thinking about conducting tests to purify water in colder climates.

According to Mikhail Vlaskin, head of the laboratory of energy-accumulating substances a new strain of microalgae has already been selected for this registered in the international NCBI database under the name Ind-Jiht-1. Further, the processes of obtaining biofuels from microalgae biomass will be optimized.

The second stage of work is planned for the current year the purpose of which is to treat more than 10 thousand liters of sewage from the Bindal River. In the future, the international team thinks to grow river fish in purified water. It is hoped that over time the waters of the Bindal River will be able to be cleaned to such an extent that fish can be raised there on an ongoing basis.

The wastewater treatment project was initiated by the Ministry of Science and Technology of India together with the Russian Academy of Sciences and supported by the Russian Foundation for Basic Research. The scientists plan to clean with microalgae not only polluted water but also air.