Title

Growing Algae with Chitin as a Nitrogen Source to Remove Phosphorous from Pulp Wastewater

Presentation Type

Poster

Abstract

Every year, about 750 million pounds of crab, shrimp, and lobster are harvested in the United States. Currently, the shells, which compose half of this mass, are sent to landfills, creating a costly problem in heavy shellfish producing regions. These shells are comprised of protein, calcium carbonate and chitin (a polymer of nitrogen and carbon), with 35-60% of the shell being chitin. We are developing commercial applications that turn this chitinous waste into a valuable resource for the mass cultivation of algal biomass, a process that can be coupled with the removal of phosphorous from waste streams.

Conventionally, algae cultivation employs synthetic nitrogen fertilizers that are made by burning fossil fuels, giving it both a large carbon footprint and a high price tag. Our lab has discovered many algae and cyanobacteria species that are capable of using chitin as a nitrogen source. Our research develops commercial applications for this discovery, in hopes that waste chitin will replace conventional nitrogen fertilizers. The resulting algae biomass can then be used to make biofuels and other commercially valuable products.

Algae also require a source of phosphorus. In the U.S., paper mills discharge 120 million tons of water, containing 2,500 tons of phosphorus. This wastewater (after primary and secondary treatment) is currently discharged into our waters, leading to eutrophication.

This research project couples algal growth on waste chitin with growth on phosphorus-rich pulp wastewater. Our primary goal is to quantify the rate of phosphorus removal from pulp wastewater using several species of commercially desirable algae. Preliminary results show that our chitin technology is superior to the current standard, which uses algae grown on the synthetic nitrogen sources like ammonia. We hope that our work leads to a viable new method for the tertiary treatment of nutrient-rich wastewaters using algae and chitin.

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Apr 12th, 3:00 PM Apr 12th, 4:00 PM

Growing Algae with Chitin as a Nitrogen Source to Remove Phosphorous from Pulp Wastewater

UC Ballroom

Every year, about 750 million pounds of crab, shrimp, and lobster are harvested in the United States. Currently, the shells, which compose half of this mass, are sent to landfills, creating a costly problem in heavy shellfish producing regions. These shells are comprised of protein, calcium carbonate and chitin (a polymer of nitrogen and carbon), with 35-60% of the shell being chitin. We are developing commercial applications that turn this chitinous waste into a valuable resource for the mass cultivation of algal biomass, a process that can be coupled with the removal of phosphorous from waste streams.

Conventionally, algae cultivation employs synthetic nitrogen fertilizers that are made by burning fossil fuels, giving it both a large carbon footprint and a high price tag. Our lab has discovered many algae and cyanobacteria species that are capable of using chitin as a nitrogen source. Our research develops commercial applications for this discovery, in hopes that waste chitin will replace conventional nitrogen fertilizers. The resulting algae biomass can then be used to make biofuels and other commercially valuable products.

Algae also require a source of phosphorus. In the U.S., paper mills discharge 120 million tons of water, containing 2,500 tons of phosphorus. This wastewater (after primary and secondary treatment) is currently discharged into our waters, leading to eutrophication.

This research project couples algal growth on waste chitin with growth on phosphorus-rich pulp wastewater. Our primary goal is to quantify the rate of phosphorus removal from pulp wastewater using several species of commercially desirable algae. Preliminary results show that our chitin technology is superior to the current standard, which uses algae grown on the synthetic nitrogen sources like ammonia. We hope that our work leads to a viable new method for the tertiary treatment of nutrient-rich wastewaters using algae and chitin.