Title

Chitin: an alternative nitrogen source for algae growth and the treatment of pulp and paper mill wastewater

Presentation Type

Poster

Abstract

Every day, a pulp and paper mill produces ~ 10 million tons of phosphorus-enriched wastewater. This wastewater, when discharged, causes eutrophication in natural waters, making it imperative that this waste stream be treated. At the technological forefront of wastewater treatment is the utilization of algae. Algae remove phosphorus from wastewater, growing and creating valuable biomass that can be used to create valuable bioproducts (e.g. biofuels). However, this wastewater is nitrogen deficient, so it must be supplemented with nitrogen. Currently ammonium nitrate is used, but manufacturing this nitrogen source is expensive and has a large carbon footprint. However, with the discovery that algae can grow using chitin as their sole nitrogen source, we have found a potential alternative to synthetic nitrogen. Chitin, found in the shells of crustaceans, is one of the most abundant natural polymers on earth, with ~750 million pounds entering the landfill annually as a waste product of the shellfish industry. We aim to repurpose this waste chitin as a nitrogen source for photosynthetic microorganisms.

Preliminary results presented at last year’s UMCUR demonstrated phosphorus removal from pulp and paper (P&P) wastewater on both chitin and ammonium. Further analysis has yielded data supporting efficient phosphorus removal. Growth curves for a diverse number of algal strains grown on chitin in P&P wastewater have also been compiled, yielding rates comparable if not better than those associated with ammonium nitrate. Additional analyses have also been conducted comparing the amounts of dissolved carbon and nitrogen left over in the wastewater after treatment. Combining this data with a techno-economic analysis, we can compare the costs and benefits of chitin versus the conventional ammonium nitrate. Bench scale results suggest this technology could be a viable alternative if taken to commercial scale.

Category

Life Sciences

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Apr 11th, 3:00 PM Apr 11th, 4:00 PM

Chitin: an alternative nitrogen source for algae growth and the treatment of pulp and paper mill wastewater

Every day, a pulp and paper mill produces ~ 10 million tons of phosphorus-enriched wastewater. This wastewater, when discharged, causes eutrophication in natural waters, making it imperative that this waste stream be treated. At the technological forefront of wastewater treatment is the utilization of algae. Algae remove phosphorus from wastewater, growing and creating valuable biomass that can be used to create valuable bioproducts (e.g. biofuels). However, this wastewater is nitrogen deficient, so it must be supplemented with nitrogen. Currently ammonium nitrate is used, but manufacturing this nitrogen source is expensive and has a large carbon footprint. However, with the discovery that algae can grow using chitin as their sole nitrogen source, we have found a potential alternative to synthetic nitrogen. Chitin, found in the shells of crustaceans, is one of the most abundant natural polymers on earth, with ~750 million pounds entering the landfill annually as a waste product of the shellfish industry. We aim to repurpose this waste chitin as a nitrogen source for photosynthetic microorganisms.

Preliminary results presented at last year’s UMCUR demonstrated phosphorus removal from pulp and paper (P&P) wastewater on both chitin and ammonium. Further analysis has yielded data supporting efficient phosphorus removal. Growth curves for a diverse number of algal strains grown on chitin in P&P wastewater have also been compiled, yielding rates comparable if not better than those associated with ammonium nitrate. Additional analyses have also been conducted comparing the amounts of dissolved carbon and nitrogen left over in the wastewater after treatment. Combining this data with a techno-economic analysis, we can compare the costs and benefits of chitin versus the conventional ammonium nitrate. Bench scale results suggest this technology could be a viable alternative if taken to commercial scale.