Alexei Solovchenko, biology professor at Lomonosov Moscow State University, headed up the algal research.

Members of the Faculty of Biology of the Lomonosov Moscow State University have proven that, under Nordic conditions, wastewaters could be treated with the help of microalgae, while the algal biomass is suitable for processing into biofuel.

The Lomonosov scientists presented the optimized technique for the removal from wastewater of organic compounds, along with nitrogen and phosphorus, in Algal Research. Their research has been supported by the Russian Science Foundation and conducted within the framework of the “Noah’s ark” project (Microorganisms and Fungi Division).

Although algal ponds for wastewater treatment have been around since ancient times, William Oswald, the pioneer of algal biotreatment of wastewater, developed a solid scientific foundation for this technique more than 50 years ago.

Traditionally photobioreactors have not been considered for wastewater treatment, due to cost and maintenance issues. In this study, the Russian biologists together with their colleagues from the University of Turku (Finland) carried out pioneering research on optimization of photobioreactor-based methods, under Nordic conditions.

There are two efficiency characteristics of wastewater treatment: the pollutant removal completeness and its rate — the retention time, during which pollutant concentration in the treated water falls to the level acceptable for discharge (maximum permissible concentration — MPC).

The scientists used Chlorella vulgaris UHCC0027 — a microalgal strain, isolated in southwestern Finland, its natural habitat. Alexei Solovchenko, Doctor of Biology and one of the research participants, said, “The guiding principle applied for obtaining and choosing strains for biotreatment purposes, is very simple. The most promising organisms are often isolated from the treatment facilities and surrounding territories. It was curious that an alga from the Nordic collection has proven worth in the process of research. However, an indigenous algal community from the same wastewaters eventually matched the algal monoculture in the efficiency of treatment.

“Business considers algal biotreatment very promising,” said Dr. Solovchenko. “For instance, our project has been done on the basis of a Finnish commercial firm, professionally dealing with wastewater treatment. Its members also took part in our work. What is important is that we’ve achieved rather fair results, using pure municipal wastewater, taken from the Turku network and not from model environments, applied in most researches.”

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