Bioremediation of wastewater using microalgae

Date of Award


Degree Name

Ph.D. in Materials Engineering


Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering


Advisor: Sukh S. Sidhu


Population expansion and industrial development has deteriorated the quality of freshwater reservoirs around the world and has caused freshwater shortages in certain areas. Discharge of industrial effluents containing toxic heavy metals such as Cd and Cr into the environment have serious impact on human, animal and aquatic life. In order to solve these problems, the present study was focused on evaluating and demonstrating potential of microalgae for bioremediation of wastewater laden with nitrogen (N) in the form of nitrates, phosphorous (P) in the form of phosphates, chromium (Cr (VI)) and cadmium (Cd (II)). After screening several microalgae, Chlorella vulgaris and algae taken from Pleasant Hill Lake were chosen as candidate species for this study. The viability of the process was demonstrated in laboratory bioreactors and various experimental parameters such as contact time, initial metal concentration, algae concentration, pH and temperature that would affect remediation rates were studied. Based on the experimental results, correlations were developed to enable customizing and designing a commercial Algae based Wastewater Treatment System (AWTS). A commercial AWTS system that can be easily customized and is suitable for integration into existing wastewater treatment facilities was developed, and capital cost estimates for system including installation and annual operating costs were determined. The work concludes that algal bioremediation is a viable alternate technology for treating wastewater in an economical and sustainable way when compared to conventional treatment processes. The annual wastewater treatment cost to remove N,P is ̃26x lower and to remove Cr, Cd is 7x lower than conventional treatment processes. The cost benefit analysis performed shows that if this technology is implemented at industrial complexes, Air Force freight and other Department of Defense installations with wastewater treatment plants, it could lead to millions of dollars in savings that could be repurposed for meeting other needs.


Sewage Purification Biological treatment, Sewage Purification Organic compounds removal, Sewage Purification Heavy metals removal, Microalgae, Chemical Engineering, Biology, Materials Science, Bioremediation, chlorella vulgaris, wastewater, nitrate and phosphate removal, chromium and cadmium removal

Rights Statement

Copyright 2014, author