Mitigating nutrient accumulation with microalgal growth towards enhanced nutrient removal and biomass production in an osmotic photobioreactor.Water Res. 2020 Jun 12; 182:116038.WR
Forward osmosis (FO) has great potential for low energy consumption wastewater reuse provided there is no requirement for draw solutes (DS) regeneration. Reverse solute flux (RSF) can lead to DS build-up in the feed solution. This remains a key challenge because it can cause significant water flux reduction and lead to additional water quality problems. Herein, an osmotic photobioreactor (OsPBR) system was developed to employ fast-growing microalgae to consume the RSF nutrients. Diammonium phosphate (DAP) was used as a fertilizer DS, and algal biomass was a byproduct. The addition of microalgae into the OsPBR proved to maintain water flux while reducing the concentrations of NH4+-N, PO43--P and chemical oxygen demand (COD) in the OsPBR feed solution by 44.4%, 85.6%, and 77.5%, respectively. Due to the forward cation flux and precipitation, intermittent supplements of K+, Mg2+, Ca2+, and SO42- salts further stimulated algal growth and culture densities by 58.7%. With an optimal hydraulic retention time (HRT) of 3.33 d, the OsPBR overcame NH4+-N overloading and stabilized key nutrients NH4+-N at ∼ 2.0 mg L-1, PO43--P < 0.6 mg L-1, and COD < 30 mg L-1. A moderate nitrogen reduction stress resulted in a high carbohydrate content (51.3 ± 0.1%) among microalgal cells. A solids retention time (SRT) of 17.82 d was found to increase high-density microalgae by 3-fold with a high yield of both lipids (9.07 g m-3 d-1) and carbohydrates (16.66 g m-3 d-1). This study encourages further exploration of the OsPBR technology for simultaneous recovery of high-quality water and production of algal biomass for value-added products.