Iowa State University researchers have generated quite the buzz this past month by developing a unique approach to wastewater treatment utilizing algae. The Revolving Algal Biofilm system, developed by researchers Zhiyou Wen, professor of food science and human nutrition, and Martin Gross, a postdoctoral fellow, utilizes the natural principles of algae to decontaminate the wastewater. The algae pilot system’s technology has piqued the interest of water professionals across the United States. 
The system works by continuously circulating wastewater and air in a 6 by 3 foot open vault. Algae, which absorbs phosphorous, nitrogen, and carbon dioxide, forms on the conveyor belt-like system. “This reactor greatly improves the efficiency of carbon dioxide and sunlight absorption. We found that the biomass productivity is about 10 times higher than a conventional system,” said Wen in a High Plains / Midwest Ag Journal article. 
After the wastewater treatment process is completed, the algae produced by the system can be beneficially used as fertilizer. To catalyze this idea and further develop the algae-based fertilizer, Wen and Gross formed a company by obtaining a Small Business Innovation Research grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). 
Last year, the algae technology was tested by the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago. The findings were so successful that the district opted to continue its study for another year. But it doesn’t stop there. In an effort to increase access to the technology, Wen and Gross built a mobile version of the Revolving Algal Biofilm system. “Instead of inviting a local community’s water treatment personnel to come to our (Iowa State) facility to perform water treatment tests, we built this trailer to take to the community to treat wastewater on site,” Wen said. 
The mobile system has been traveling to various treatment facilities throughout the state. More research is currently underway to test and understand the future use of algae technology. To read more, click here.
 High Plains / Midwest Ag Journal. Iowa State University improves algae technology to treat wastewater for communities and businesses. High Plains / Midwest Ag Journal, January 29, 2017. Web. http://www.hpj.com/general/iowa-state-university-improves-algae-technology-to-treat-wastewater-for/article_5887add7-d986-58ac-aa2c-4158edef075a.html  Feedstuff. Algae technology helps treat wastewater. Feedstuff, January 25, 2017. Web. http://www.feedstuffs.com/news/algae-technology-helps-treat-wastewater