Treatment of clean in place (CIP) wastewater using microalgae: Nutrient upcycling and value-added byproducts production

Yanyan Su*, Charlotte Jacobsen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


CIP wastewater is one of the major wastewater streams from the food industry, and its treatment is generally expensive, requiring a large effort to reduce its typically high nitrogen (N), and phosphorus (P) contents. Microalgae-based wastewater treatment is increasingly explored as a more sustainable alternative to the conventional methods, due to the added benefit of nutrient upcycling and value-added biomass production. For the first time, four microalgae species were used to treat CIP wastewater high in N (565.5 mg NO3−-N/l) and P (98.0 mg PO43−-P/l). An intermittent biomass harvesting strategy was adopted in this study to enhance the purification of CIP water and redirection of nutrients into algal biomass. Over 93 days operation, N removal efficiency was 52.1 ± 2.9%, 54.8 ± 2.5%, 50.0 ± 2.3% and 48.3 ± 0.5%, and P removal efficiency was 65.5 ± 10.0%, 79.4 ± 6.1%, 61.8 ± 2.5% and 69.1 ± 7.7% for Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, Chlorella vulgaris, Scenedesmus obliquus and wastewater borne microalgae, respectively. After the first (acclimatization) and second growth cycles, cell growth and nutrient removal slowed down but increased again after adding trace nutrients, indicating the lack of trace elements after the first two growth cycles. In the fourth and fifth batch runs, both algal growth rate and nutrient removal rate decreased despite adding trace nutrients and/or increasing light intensity, this being a consequence of the excreted soluble algal products accumulating during long-term operation. S. obliquus had the highest protein concentration of 44.5 ± 9.8% DW, while C. vulgaris accumulated the highest total lipid content (15.6 ± 0.9%, DW). In this proof-of-concept study, the cultivation of microalgae in CIP wastewater with an intermittent harvest of the accumulated algal biomass is demonstrated and it outlines the potential of microalgae to sustainably treat effluents with extremely high nutrients concentration while producing the food-grade algae biomass.
Original languageEnglish
Article number147337
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Clean-in-place (CIP) water
  • Wastewater high in N and P
  • Microalgae
  • Nutrient removal and upcycling
  • Amino acid and fatty acid profiles


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