SASNET seminar on Microalgal Biotechnology research in India
The talk included information on a few successful field installations in India and abroad. Professor Thajuddin is specialized in research on Microalgal Biotechnology. Microalgae are one of the most important groups of photosynthetic organisms in the plant kingdom having both prokaryotic and eukaryotic features (Blue-green algae (=Cyanobacteria). They occur in all aquatic and terrestrial habitats including polar and other extreme environment where moisture sun light is available. Cyanobacteria along with several other microalgae were treated with contempt as ‘scum’ since it was believed that these organisms were only of nuscence value-fouling water bodies and causing diseases and toxemia. Watch the Youtube video of the seminar.
Primary producers in all aquatic ecosystems
Ecologists however started giving them respect as primary producers in all aquatic ecosystems, and realized that, without them no animal populations including fishers and prawns could exist. They were, till recently in the oblivion, uncared and unrecognized, have shot into fame and popularity owing to a host of their innate properties that make them ideal organisms for use in a variety of ways to meet our needs and to promise us a bright future. In recent years, worldwide attention is drawn towards these organisms for their possible use in varied areas such as food, feed, fuel, fertilizer, medicine, industry, scrubbing the excess atmospheric CO2 and other gases causing the “green house effects” and combating pollution.
Among several cyanobacterial species, Spirulina (top photo) in particular is used as food supplement, due to its excellent nutrient composition and better digestibility due to delicate cell wall. Spirulina contain highest protein content (60 – 71 %) and also rich source of beta carotene and vitamin B12. Several enzymes (protease, lipase, cellulose, urease, superoxide dismutase etc.) amino acids, lipids, fatty acids and an unique sequence specific endonucleases are known from different cyanobacteria (Acy I, Ava I, Afl I, Avr II, Nsp CI, Mst II etc.) which can be made available in the market at a lesser cost since relative biomass production is much less expensive than bacteria or fungi.
Algae fuels present an exciting opportunity. There is a strong view among industry professionals that algae represent the most optimal feedstock for biofuel production in the long run. Algae present multiple possibilities for fuel end-products – biodiesel, ethanol, methane, jet fuel, biocrude and more – via a wide range of process routes. Many microalgae grow in saline or hypersaline waters and thus their large-scale cultures do not compete with conventional agriculture for the limited resources of arable land and fresh water. Pioneering work of the last decades has raised the status of these microbes to a level where they are being viewed with favour in biotechnologically relevant spheres. Therefore, it is essential not only to understand and preserve the biodiversity of microalgae and cyanobacteria in yet unexplored habitats but also to gainfully exploit them for various applications including pollution abatement.
Dr V Sivasubramanian is specialized in research on Phycoremediation technology, dealing with how micro algae can take up nutrients and clean up waste water more efficiently than any other organisms. This quality of micro algae has been exploited in cleaning industrial effluents during the last 14 years, and PERC has implemented small scale and large scale treatment plants based on algal technology in a variety of industries in India and abroad The main advantage of this technology is it is ecofriendly and cost effective (more than 90% in operation cost). PERC also has a huge micro algal culture collection. PERC has found this technology to be well suited to neutralize pH of most of the acidic industrial effluents without using caustic or any other chemicals. Sludge reduction is excellent. There is a significant reduction in COD and BOD to suit PCB’s or CETP’s requirements. Colour removal, odour removal, enhanced evaporation in SEPs, management of R/O rejects, reduction of nutrient load and complete avoidance of chemicals are some of the other advantages. This technology blends very well with existing conventional technology thereby reducing chemical costs and operation costs and overall improvement of treatment efficiency.
Eco-friendly method to eliminate solid waste
Most industries traditionally treat their effluents by chemical methods which are not only expensive but create toxic solid wastes in turn and it becomes difficult to dispose them. Phycoremediation, a technique employing algae, to treat industrial effluents and waste water. This new technology is not only safe and eco-friendly but it eliminates the accumulation of solid waste unlike in the chemical treatment. It is quite economical and at the same time oxygenates the environment by photosynthesis, hence CO2 mitigation. This methodology is quite useful in the removal of toxic waste including heavy metals, pesticide residues and other toxic chemicals.
Phycoremediation Technology is implemented in Three Phases viz: Laboratory Feasibility Studies, Pilot Pilant Studies and Large Scale Commercial Plant:
– Laboratory Feasibility Studies: Laboratory Feasibility Studies shall be undertaken by PERC in the First Phase which includes the identification of suitable Micro-Algae species for the bio-remediation of the Effluents at Lab Level apart from standardizing various parameters for optimization of remediation efficacy.
– Pilot Plant Studies: After completion of Laboratory Feasibility Studies, Pilot Plant trials are undertaken. Construction of the Pilot Plant and Maintenance are carried out by the client under our guidance. Periodic Data are obtained from the Client as per our instructions for Monitoring.
– Large Scale Commercial Plant: Upon successful completion of Pilot Plant Studies, guidance will be provided by us for constructing Large Scale Commercial Plant. Design, Construction & Maintenance are carried out by the client under our guidance. Periodic Data are obtained from the Client as per our instructions for Monitoring.