Date of Award:

5-2010

Document Type:

Dissertation

Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department:

Biological and Irrigation Engineering

Advisor/Chair:

Conly L. Hansen

Abstract

Nutrients present in digested animal waste can be utilized for algae cultivation under suitable conditions. Algal growth, however, depends on the chemical forms and speciation of these nutrients. In this study a chemical equilibrium model was first used to describe nutrient speciation and predict conditions that enhance the solubility of nutrients in anaerobic digester effluent. Dilution with water and separation of large particulates greatly improved nutrient availability and light penetration - conditions favorable for algal cultivation. Algae growth was tested using three strains - Scenedesmus dimorphous (UTEX # 417), Chlorella vulgaris (UTEX# 265), and an algal isolate (designated as LLAI and later identified to be closely related to Chlorella vulgaris) from the wastewater treatment lagoons in Logan, UT. All tested strains could be adapted to the effluent to enhance the utilization of native nutrients present in both organic and inorganic forms. There was a marked improvement in growth rates (up to 4.8-fold) and biomass production (up to 8.7-fold) of algal cultures after they adapted to the effluent. Also, effluent-adapted strains were able to switch from phototrophy to heterotrophy to prolong the growth when light availability became limited. However, an increase in irradiance levels in light-limited cultures led to resumption of phototrophic growth. It was found that this approach of light supplementation prolonged growth and increased biomass production (up to 2.7-fold) in algal cultures. Of all the strains tested, the isolate from the wastewater treating lagoons grew to highest culture densities and produced the highest concentration of intracellular triacylglycerides (TAG). This culture also grew best in non-sterile, native effluent and could reach biomass concentration of up to 4.5g/L with TAG content of approximately 10% (w/w). Culture densities were lower when this organism was grown in sterilized effluent or in sterile artificial media, suggesting that this organism symbiotically associated with other microbes in digested animal waste. Findings of this research study suggest that microalgae can be grown efficiently on inexpensive natural substrates in non-sterile growth conditions. When commercially implemented, biodiesel production from such systems could be more cost effective and sustainable.

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