Survey on nitrogen removal and membrane filtration characteristics of Chlorella vulgaris Beij. on treating domestic type wastewaters

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The main objective of this study is to evaluate the nitrogen assimilation and filtration characteristics of Chlorella vulgaris Beij. when treating domestic wastewaters. Chlorella could assimilate organic nitrogen, ammonia and nitrate in wastewater, and the mean cell residence time (MCRT) to achieve the maximum biomass content in a bioreactor was different for each individual nitrogen source used. The experimental results showed that using nitrate as the only nitrogen source was the most favorable for biomass growth. With ammonia and nitrate coexisting in the aquatic phase, Chlorella possibly utilized ammonia first, and this was unfavorable to subsequent biomass growth. Nitrifying bacteria in wastewaters significantly affected Chlorella growth as they possibly competed with Chlorella in assimilating ammonia and nitrate in domestic wastewater. In a submerged ultrafiltration (UF) membrane module, with an initial concentration of 850 mg/L of Chlorella, the optimized flux was 0.02 m3/(m2·h), and the filtration cycle was 30 min. A ‘dual membrane bioreactor (MBR)’ configuration using UF membranes for Chlorella incubation was proposed. MBR1 provides an environment with long MCRT for efficient nitrification. The converted nitrate is assimilated by Chlorella in MBR2 to sustain its growth. UF permeate from MBR1 is bacteria-free and does not affect the growth of Chlorella in MBR2. MCRT of Chlorella growth is controlled by the UF membrane of MBR2, providing the flexibility to adjust variations of nitrogen composition in the wastewater.

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