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Resolving Bottlenecks in Current Algal Wastewater Treatment Paradigms: A Synergistic Combination of Low-Lipid Algal Wastewater Treatment and Hydrothermal Liquefaction for Large-Scale Biofuel Production

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A novel system for algal biofuel production was proposed, which integrates algal biomass production, wastewater treatment and hydrothermal liquefaction of biomass to bio-crude oil. A series of algae cultivation and hydrothermal conversion experiments were conducted, confirming several key characteristics of such system: 1) fast-growing low-lipid content algae can be produced using wastewater; 2) biomass produced in the system can be converted into usable biofuel though hydrothermal conversion process with a positive energy balance; 3) the system can leverage the nutrient content in the incoming waste-stream for maximum biomass production and carbon capture that is approximately 10 times the original mass of bio-waste. This process resolves the current major limitations to the economic feasibility of algal biofuels because high-lipid algae are not necessary and the energy for dewatering is minimized by the self-separation of liquefaction oil from wet biomass. Thus, this process would potentially completely replace petroleum imports using only waste inputs and carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. This is a new wastewater and bio-energy paradigm our world needs.
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Keywords: Algae biofuel; hydrothermal liquefaction; nutrient recycling; wastewater treatment

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 January 2011

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