Nutrient removal and biomass production: advances in microalgal biotechnology for wastewater treatment.
Owing to certain drawbacks, such as energy-intensive operations in conventional modes of wastewater treatment (WWT), there has been an extensive search for alternative strategies in treatment technology. Biological modes for treating wastewaters are one of the finest technologies in terms of economy and efficiency. An integrated biological approach with chemical flocculation is being conventionally practiced in several-sewage and effluent treatment plants around the world. Overwhelming responsiveness to treat wastewaters especially by using microalgae is due to their simplest photosynthetic mechanism and ease of acclimation to various habitats. Microalgal technology, also known as phycoremediation, has been in use for WWT since 1950s. Various strategies for the cultivation of microalgae in WWT systems are evolving faster. However, the availability of innovative approaches for maximizing the treatment efficiency, coupled with biomass productivity, remains the major bottleneck for commercialization of microalgal technology. Investment costs and invasive parameters also delimit the use of microalgae in WWT. This review critically discusses the merits and demerits of microalgal cultivation strategies recently developed for maximum pollutant removal as well as biomass productivity. Also, the potential of algal biofilm technology in pollutant removal, and harvesting the microalgal biomass using different techniques have been highlighted. Finally, an economic assessment of the currently available methods has been made to validate microalgal cultivation in wastewater at the commercial level.