Trimethylamine abatement in algal-bacterial photobioreactors

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Trimethylamine (TMA) is an odorous volatile organic compound emitted by industries. Algal-based biotechnologies have been proven as a feasible alternative for wastewater treatment, although their application to abate polluted air emissions is still scarce. This work comparatively assessed the removal of TMA in a conventional bacterial bubble column bioreactor (BC) and a novel algal-bacterial bubble column photobioreactor (PBC). The PBC exhibited a superior TMA abatement performance compared to the conventional BC. In this sense, the BC reached a removal efficiency (RE) and an elimination capacity (EC) of 78% and 12.1 g TMA m−3 h−1, respectively, while the PBC achieved a RE of 97% and a EC of 16.0 g TMA m−3·h−1 at an empty bed residence time (EBRT) of 2 min and a TMA concentration ~500 mg m−3. The outstanding performance of the PBC allowed to reduce the operating EBRT to 1.5 and 1 min while maintaining high REs of 98 and 94% and ECs of 21.2 and 28.1 g m−3·h−1, respectively. Moreover, the PBC improved the quality of the gas and liquid effluents discharged, showing a net CO2 consumption and decreasing by ~ 30% the total nitrogen concentration in the liquid effluent via biomass assimilation. A high specialization of the bacterial community was observed in the PBC, Mumia and Aquamicrobium sp. being the most abundant genus within the main phyla identified.


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Correspondence to Raquel Lebrero.

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• The algal-bacterial photobioreactor showed a superior TMA abatement.

• Photobioreactor enhanced TMA removal by ~20% under similar operating conditions.

• Removal efficiencies > 94% were recorded in the photobioreactor at an EBRT of 1 min.

• Photosynthetic activity supported higher pH values and reduced CO2 emissions.

• Thirty percent less nitrogen was discharged in the liquid effluent of the photobioreactor.

Responsible editor: Gerald Thouand

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Pascual, C., Akmirza, I., Pérez, R. et al. Trimethylamine abatement in algal-bacterial photobioreactors. Environ Sci Pollut Res (2020).

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  • Biodegradation
  • Bubble column bioreactor
  • Microalgae-bacteria
  • Odor treatment
  • Photobioreactor
  • Trimethylamine