Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Engineering (DEng)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Agriculture; Engineering


Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering

First Advisor

Dr. Czarena Crofcheck


Coal-fired electricity production is the major emitter of CO2 and other greenhouse gases including NOx and SOx. Microalgae-based CO2 mitigation systems have been proposed to reduce the net CO2 emission from coal-fired power plants. This study focused on developing an optimum culture media and exploring the possibilities for recycling nutrients, which were added as commercial mineralized chemicals at the beginning of cultivation.

In order to release the nutrients embedded in the cells so that they can be used as a nutrient source for new cells, Scenedesmus biomass was digested by anaerobic bacteria. Results showed that thermal pretreatment enhanced the methane production rate for the first 7 days of digestion. Three operational factors were tested: heating temperature, heating duration and NaOH dosage. The combination of 10 min heating with 3~6% NaOH at 50 °C gave the highest cell wall destruction for all samples except oven-dried algae.

The anaerobic digestate, rich in mineralized nutrients including ammonium and phosphate, potassium and magnesium ions, was tested as a possible nutrient source for the algae cultivation. To cope with the high solid content of the digestates, the dosage of the digestates was reduced or the solid particles were removed prior to addition to the microalgae. Both approaches worked well in terms of providing nutrients with minimal effect on light penetration. Using digestates without any sterilization did not cause contamination or other deleterious effects on the Scenedesmus growth rate.

Harvesting microalgae cells was critical to ensure a continuous and robust growth rate. The used media could be recycled at least four times without altering the algae growth. Nutrient replenishment was the key for a healthy culture when used media was incorporated. The combination of used media and digestates can sustain a normal algae growth.

Life cycle assessment was conducted on the system including the photobioreactor, the anaerobic digester, the biomass settling and dewatering and used media and nutrient recycling. Considering methane as the energy source, the overall energy return of the system was 2.4. CO2 mitigation rate was about 39% under current mitigation system.