Indirect assessment of biomass accumulation in a wastewater-based Chlorella vulgaris photobioreactor by pH variation

Sci Rep. 2021 Sep 30;11(1):19445. doi: 10.1038/s41598-021-98634-0.

ABSTRACT

Algae bloom in coastal waters is partly supported by residual nutrients in treated wastewater (WW) released from coastally located treatment plants. In response, a Chlorella vulgaris-based photobioreactor was recently proposed for lowering nutrient levels in WW prior to release. However, the solution requires maintaining biomass accumulation to within a photobioreactor capacity for optimum operation. For high density Chlorella vulgaris suspensions, this is easily done by monitoring turbidity increase, a property directly related to biomass accumulation. For low density suspensions however, direct turbidity measurement would require a cumbersome process of concentrating large volumes of Chlorella vulgaris suspensions. Here, we demonstrate that by measuring pH of the suspensions, turbidity (T) can be estimated indirectly by the following wastewater-dependent expression: pH = aT + pH0, hence avoiding the need to concentrate large volumes. The term pH0 is the initial pH of the suspensions and a, a wastewater-dependent constant, can be computed independently from a = – 0.0061*pH0 + 0.052. In the event %WW is unknown, the following wastewater-independent Gaussian expression can be used to estimate T: pH = 8.71*exp(- [(T – 250)2]/[2*1.26E05]). These three equations should offer an avenue for monitoring the turbidity of dilute Chlorella vulgaris suspensions in large, stagnant municipal Chlorella vulgaris-based wastewater treatment system via pH measurements.

PMID:34593845 | PMC:PMC8484453 | DOI:10.1038/s41598-021-98634-0

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