Environmental engineer Ian Bradley and his research team will study the use of algae to purify wastewater while simultaneously producing biomass for fuel production on a $2 million DOE project. His team will examine the DNA and RNA of algal species used to treat wastewater and produce fuel.
Understanding the makeup of algae is one of the first steps in this process. Once researchers understand the types of algae that are present and how they grow, they can design systems more effectively. Researchers will be able to create tailored processes to generate target species and biomass to produce higher quality fuel.
“Using wastewater to produce algal biofuel comes with its own challenges,” Bradley says. “Wastewater is rich in nutrients, but the composition and algae that grow on it are always changing. By understanding the types of algae in a system and how they grow best, we can design the system specifically for them to increase production.”
Bradley and his research team will work with the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Northeastern University and CLEARAS Water Recovery. “Rather than growing algae in only warm and sunny climates like the southwest,” Bradley says, “we could transform wastewater treatment plants all over the country into algae production facilities.”
Bradley’s work on this U.S. Department of Energy funded project could lead to changes in the way wastewater is treated throughout the United States.