Maximizing recovery of energy and nutrients from urban wastewaters

T. Selvaratnam, S. M. Henkanatte-Gedera, T. Muppaneni, N. Nirmalakhandan, S. Deng, P. J. Lammers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


Historically, UWWs (urban wastewaters) that contain high levels of organic carbon, N (nitrogen), and P (phosphorous) have been considered an environmental burden and have been treated at the expense of significant energy input. With the advent of new pollution abatement technologies, UWWs are now being regarded as a renewable resource from which, useful chemicals and energy could be harvested. This study proposes an integrated, algal-based system that has the potential to treat UWWs to the desired discharge standards in a sustainable manner while recovering high fraction of its energy content as well as its N- and P-contents for use as fertilizers. Key embodiments of the system being proposed are: i) cultivation of an extremophile microalga, Galdieria sulphuraria, in UWW for removal of carbon, N, and P via single-step by mixotrophic metabolism; ii) extraction of energy-rich biocrude and biochar from the cultivated biomass via hydrothermal processing; and, iii) enhancement of biomass productivity via partial recycling of the nutrient-rich AP (aqueous product) from hydrothermal-processed biomass to the cultivation step to optimize productivity, and formulation of fertilizers from the remaining AP. This paper presents a process model to simulate this integrated system, identify the optimal process conditions, and establish ranges for operational parameters.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)16-23
Number of pages8
StatePublished - Jun 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Algal cultivation
  • Energy recovery
  • Hydrothermal liquefaction
  • Nutrient recycle
  • Wastewater

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Mechanical Engineering
  • General Energy
  • Pollution
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
  • Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering
  • Building and Construction
  • Fuel Technology
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Modeling and Simulation


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