ourceable.net writes about the work Tryg Lundquist is doing at California State Polytechnic University (Cal Poly), employing algae to treat human waste and then converting the biomass into energy.
An associate professor in environmental engineering at Cal Poly, Lundquist has spent more than two decades designing sewage “raceway” systems and says the technology is now cheap and efficient enough to serve as a viable means of both treating wastewater and manufacturing biofuel.
According to Lundquist, his system holds major advantages to existing methods for the treatment of sewage and wastewater. It is inexpensive to build and operate, particularly compared to prevailing mechanical systems which can be both costly and energy-intensive. And the algae-based treatment process entails less use of electricity, and permits the recycling of water as well as nitrogen and phosphorus.
Despite his long-term commitment to the new processing method, Lundquist concedes it suffers from a few disadvantages, primarily the large amount of land required for the raceways. The land must also be situated in close proximity to treatment plants in order to ensure that electricity and transportation costs remain low, while suitable climate conditions are also required to spur algae growth. For these reasons, he feels, the method may not be suitable for high-density urban environments, or in countries with cold climates and modest sunlight.