Nitrogen and phosphorus removal from municipal wastewater effluent using microalgal biofilms

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Microalgal biofilms have so far received little attention as post-treatment for municipal wastewater treatment plants, with the result that the removal capacity of microalgal biofilms in post-treatment systems is unknown. This study investigates the capacity of microalgal biofilms as a post-treatment step for the effluent of municipal wastewater treatment plants. Microalgal biofilms were grown in flow cells with different nutrient loads under continuous lighting of 230 µmol/m(2)/s (PAR photons, 400-700 nm). It was found that the maximum uptake capacity of the microalgal biofilm was reached at loading rates of 1.0 g/m(2)/day nitrogen and 0.13 g/m(2)/day phosphorus. These maximum uptake capacities were the highest loads at which the target effluent values of 2.2 mg/L nitrogen and 0.15 mg/L phosphorus were still achieved. Microalgal biomass analysis revealed an increasing nitrogen and phosphorus content with increasing loading rates until the maximum uptake capacities. The internal nitrogen to phosphorus ratio decreased from 23:1 to 11:1 when increasing the loading rate. This combination of findings demonstrates that microalgal biofilms can be used for removing both nitrogen and phosphorus from municipal wastewater effluent
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5925-5933
JournalWater Research
Issue number18
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • waste water treatment
  • biofilms
  • anaerobic digestion
  • models
  • nutrient removal
  • photosystem-ii
  • phytoplankton
  • growth
  • bioavailability
  • photosynthesis
  • plants
  • algae
  • ph

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