Project 3b


For nutrient removal


Before pre-treated drain water can be discharged in rivers or used for more quality demanding usages, nutrients and pollutants have to be removed. Our aim is to recover these nutrient and remove pollutants by developing a compact closed microalgae photo-bioreactor (PBR) system. Our treatment system will be able to produce nutrient poor water, which is safe for discharge or further reuse.


Micro-algae are ideal to recover nutrients and remove pollutants from drain water, especially in climates where light is in abundance. Research will focus on photo bioreactor design and the recovery of nutrients from the algae biomass. Specifically, the separation of algae from the treated water by self-sedimentation is investigated. In addition, the removal of pollutants by using naturally occurring algae from the drain and altering process conditions will be studied. Finally, the quality of the algal biomass in respect to pollutants will be determined. 


Micro algae can be seen as microscopic plants: They need the nutrients from the drain water, CO2 and light energy to grow. In our project the algae are cultivated in illuminated systems: photo bioreactors. Due to the flexible design of photo bioreactors they can achieve a small structures making it a perfect technology for dense urban environments. To make the algae technology economically viable, especially a cost effective biomass separation, the self sedimenting algae technology is further developed.


Water treatment using micro algae contributes to safe water discharge in to water bodies and increases the availability of water intended for industrial or domestic usages. This leads to less pressure on the available potable water resources. Besides reusable water, the algae biomass can serve as a source of income as it can be used for various purposes. By sharing our knowledge with stakeholders, algae technology can be further developed and help in the water management of urban systems.


The developed microalgae technology will be able to provide a compact and modular water treatment system. Our technology has to fulfil following features:

  • production of water safe for discharge or suitable for reuse in agriculture, industry and for domestic purposes
  • Develop a closed PBR that can be integrated  in the urban environment
  • Highly efficient nutrient removal and recovery
  • Cost efficient algae separation
  • Flexible: stand alone or combined with other technologies 


This project is a collaboration between the Indian and Dutch research institutes including the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi (IITD), Wageningen University (WUR) and Research and Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW).

Our contributing partners are:

  • Heineken who supports us because water and water treatment are part of their key priorities in their ‘Brew a Better World’ campaign.
  • Scholte Holding B.V. is an architecture office, and is interested in exploring the inclusion of microalgae technology, as well as the other proposed technologies in urban architecture.

All our partners can be found here.

Illustrations: Projekt C| Text: Steef de Valk & Maaike Spuij | Logo: Annemarie van Aken
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