Bioeconomy Science Center
Research and cooperation for a sustainable bioeconomy

Bioeconomy Science Center
Research and cooperation for a sustainable bioeconomy

    BioSC International Workshop 2019

Sustainable solutions for closing nutrient loops using algae

       September 19th - 20th, 2019 | NGP2 Aachen | Forckenbeckstraße 51, 52074 Aachen


On 19 September 2019 at RWTH Aachen University, an international BioSC workshop on the treatment of wastewater with the aid of algae was held for the second time. The workshop was led by Tania V. Fernandez (Netherlands Institute of Ecology, Wageningen), Ladislav Nedbal (Forschungszentrum Jülich/BioSC) and Patrik Jones (Imperial College, London). Among the approximately 50 participants were algae scientists from Israel, the USA and numerous European countries.

photos: Forschungszentrum Jülich

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The treatment of waste water with algae and the simultaneous recovery and utilization of nutrients is an increasingly important topic. Algae can accumulate large amounts of e.g. phosphate or nitrate and thus have the potential to purify agricultural waste water on the one hand and to be used as nitrogen and phosphate fertilizers on the other. At the second international BioSC workshop on this topic, various specific aspects were discussed.

The first lecture session was entitled „Microalgae-based wastewater treatment“. Tania V. Fernandez (Netherlands Institute of Ecology, Wageningen) presented an algae-based purification system for human waste water, focusing in particular on the problem of removing pathogens, pharmaceuticals and heavy metals that may not enter the fertilization of crops with algae biomass. Dean Calahan (Research Centre Jülich) presented new developments in Algal Turf Scrubber (ATS) technology. Algae grow in surface waters on large sieves and are harvested regularly. This efficiently removes inorganic nutrients from the water. Sema Sirin (University of Turku) presented the co-cultivation of microalgae in greenhouses. The algae utilize the inorganic nutrients from the effluents of cucumber, tomato and salad production and accumulate lipids, which are then used for the production of biodiesel. Ania Escudero (Glasgow Caledonian University) presented the Europe-wide project Phos4You, which has already implemented the removal of phosphate from wastewater using green algae at various sites.

The second lecture session was dedicated to the topic „Microalgae physiology“. Alexei Solovchenko (Lomonosov Moscow State University) spoke about the mechanisms of absorption, storage and release of phosphate by microalgae and their genetic basis. Peter Mojzeš (Charles University, Prague) and Lu Gao (Research Centre Jülich/BioSC) showed the possibilities of Raman spectroscopy for the in situ detection of phosphate in individual cells. Yagut Allahverdiyevy-Rinne (University of Turku) presented impressive work on the optimization of photosynthesis in algae. She also presented a bioreactor with microalgae immobilized on nanocellulose, which offers numerous advantages over suspension culture, such as lower water consumption, better utilization of light and high cell density. Patrik Jones (Imperial College, London) discussed the combination of algae-based recovery of inorganic nutrients with autotrophic N2 fixation.

The topic of the last session was „Microalgae application“. Jonas Christ (RWTH Aachen) presented a process for the recovery of phosphate from rapeseed press cakes using yeasts to synthesise food grade polyphosphate. Ilya Gelfand (Ben Gurion University, Israel) presented the results of field trials in which wheat was fertilized with algae biomass. She was able to show that this fertilization was accompanied by a more efficient use of water by the plants and a reduction of N2O emissions. Also with wheat fertilized with algae biomass, Diana Hofmann (Forschungszentrum Jülich/BioSC) used radioactive isotopes to investigate the distribution of phosphate from the algae in the roots and in the soil. In contrast to mineral phosphate, which binds quickly to soil minerals and is then no longer absorbed by the plant, phosphate from algae biomass is released continuously over a longer period of time and is therefore used more efficiently by the plants. Diana Reinecke-Levi (Research Center Jülich/BioSC) presented various successful examples of algae-based value creation in rural areas in Europe and developing countries.

Finally, Holger Klose (Forschungszentrum Jülich/BioSC) presented the project „Bioökonomie-REVIER Rheinland“, which sees the structural change initiated by the withdrawal of coal as an opportunity to establish a regionally coherent bioeconomy in the Rhineland region. In this context, he pointed out various implementation possibilities for algae technologies in North Rhine-Westphalia. In the final discussion, the participants agreed that the development of algae technologies in the future must involve various stakeholders such as farmers, business representatives, regulatory authorities and the public and that the technologies must be adapted to local and regional conditions.