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Development of Reactive Nanobubble Technology for Efficient and Scalable Algae and Cyanotoxin Removal

Backed by Lester Ward and Pureum Kim
New Jersey Institute of Technology
Newark, New Jersey
EngineeringChemistryGrant: Trash, Sustainability, and the Environment
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  • $255
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  • 19
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About This Project

This research will advance algal biomass separation or removal from water for algae-based biofuel industrialization and mitigation of wide algal blooms’ impacts on water quality and drinking water security. Briefly, our research will develop and implement an innovative process using reactive nanobubbles that are made of gases such as pure oxygen or ozone that promote rapid oxidation and decomposition of algal biomass and aqueous organic matters (e.g., cyanotoxin).

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What is the context of this research?

We will generate different kinds of gas nanobubbles using pure oxygen and ozone using our existing nanobubble generation platform. We will control the characteristics of nanobubbles (such as bubble size, concentrations, etc.) in water dispersion by changing the generation conditions (e.g., gas flow, gas pressure, etc.). Algal suspension will be prepared with our existing algal facility and species. We will purge the algal suspension using the generated gas nanobubbles to examine algal integrity changes such as morphology and cell damage.1 This information will be useful for the assessment of algal removal due to the oxidative stress from the reactive nanobubbles that can produce oxygen radicals. 2-5

What is the significance of this project?

Algae are one of typical water contaminants that affect water quality and drinking water security. The occurrence of harmful algal blooms (HABs) is increasingly common in inland freshwater (lakes, ponds, reservoirs and rivers) across all 50 states 6 and globally.7 HABs have compromised drinking water supplies caused fish kills and burdened the economy with tens of millions of dollars in natural resources damages.8 Meanwhile, algal biomass is the third generation feedstock for biodiesel or biofuel production. Thus, efficient algal separation or removal from water is not only critical for safe drinking water supply but also important for biofuel production.

What are the goals of the project?

The goal of this project is to obtain the proof of the concept data that supports future grant proposals to other funding agencies such as US EPA and NSF. The data we anticipate include images and quantitative data showing algal cells are compromised and killed at certain exposure conditions to reactive nanobubbles and we will compare the efficacy of pure oxygen and ozone nanobubbles with discussions on advantages/disadvantages of respective options. Moreover, our research outcomes will be useful and important for advancing the science and engineering related to algal bloom control and algal biofuel industries.


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Our tentative project duration is 6 months including laboratory and field work. The field work may be implemented in partnership with New Jersey Department of Environmental Pollution to find out proper sites such as natural ponds, lagoons, or rivers that are likely impacted by algal bloom in the summer time.

The following lists the potential expenditures to implement this research project. Specifically, the budget is made to cover chemicals, materials and supplies for student researchers to set up the devices and research instruments. Our lab is equipped with other necessary equipment such as microscopes, water quality sensors, and cell counters to assess the algal removal efficiency. Field work will be included to further examine the applicability and treatment performances in the pilot or large scales. At least one PhD student, two master students and two or three undergraduate students from NJIT will be involved in this project.

Endorsed by

I am really excited about this project. This is becoming a critical area of study. With water being the most precious resource, this study assumes tremendous significance.

Meet the Team

Wen Zhang
Wen Zhang
Wanyi Fu
Wanyi Fu
Likun Hua
Likun Hua
Sarthak Rajesh Dange
Sarthak Rajesh Dange
Ahmed Khaled Abdella Ahmed
Ahmed Khaled Abdella Ahmed
saloni suthar
saloni suthar

Wen Zhang

Wen Zhang is currently the assistant professor of NJIT’s Newark College of Engineering in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Wen is a licensed Professional Engineer (P.E.) registered in the States of New Jersey and Delaware. Wen received his B.S from Tsinghua University in 2004, M.S. from Tongji University in 2007, and Ph.D. from Georgia Institute of Technology in 2011. Dr. Zhang's research integrates nanotechnology into environmental engineering to develop innovative solutions for environmental sustainability and challenges in water-energy nexus. His PhD work focused on the environmental fate and transport of engineered nanoparticles, biological interactions, as well as nanomaterial characterization at biointerfaces. Recently, Wen leads major efforts in the sustainable design of visible light-driven photocatalytic systems for harnessing solar energy, hydrogen evolution, and efficient degradation of emerging water contaminants. Moreover, he develops novel multifunctional nanomaterials for antimicrobial applications, microalgae harvesting for biofuel production, and reactive electrochemical membrane systems. So far, Wen has published more than 50 peer-reviewed journal articles and garnered near 1400 citations with an H index of 22. Wen is the recipient of a number of national awards in the US, including the 2011 Simon Karecki Award from the Global Research Collaboration and SEMATECH Engineering Research Center for Environmentally Benign Semiconductor Manufacturing, the 2012 CH2M Hill/AEESP Outstanding Doctoral Dissertation Award from the Association of Environmental Engineering and Science Professors (AEESP), the 2013 CIBA/ACS Younger Chemists Committee (YCC) Young Scientist Travel Award, the 2014 ExCEEd Teaching Fellows by American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), and the 2016 ASCE New Jersey Section's Educator of the Year.

Wanyi Fu

Wanyi is currently a PhD student working on innovative membrane technology for antifouling and sustainable water treatment.

Likun Hua

Likun Hua is currently the second-year PhD student in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and working with Dr. Wen Zhang. Likun received his B.S from Tianjin University in 2012, M.S. from NJIT in 2014. Likun's research aims at exploring REM filtration as a potential efficient approach to harvest and pretreat algae as a model organism. Recently, Likun has developed a bench prototype REM system, which was proved to be efficient in algal pretreatment prior to lipid extraction. Likun presented the results at the 2015 NJ Tech Council Summer Intern and Research Program conference in Edison NJ. In the summer of 2015, Likun mentored one undergraduate student and one high school student for their summer research internship. Based on his research, Likun published his first journal article on Bioresource technology in Jan. 2016. In March 2016, Likun presented his updated research work on NJEN annual poster session in Princeton University and ACS 251st National Meeting in San Diego.

Sarthak Rajesh Dange

My name is Sarthak Rajesh Dange and I am currently a graduate student pursuing my masters in environmental engineering. I have been in research work since 1 year under Dr Wen Zhang at New Jersey Institute of Technology.

My work with Dr Zhang includes:

1) Working on growing algae and extracting lipids from them which would be used as a bio fuel for generating energy.

2) Obtained energy generation through the use of microbial fuel cell (MFC) as a clean source of energy for portable toilets and on further research resulted in receiving ample amount of charge from MFC when connected in series.

3) Using REM (Reactive electrochemical membrane) Technic for obtaining pure water through development and characterization of ultra-filtration TiO2 Magneli Phase reactive electrochemical membranes and developed a prototype for water purifying purpose at laboratory level.

Ahmed Khaled Abdella Ahmed

Ahmed K Ahmed is currently a PhD student at NJIT in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. He is working with Dr. Wen Zhang on Formation, Characterization and Environmental Applications of Nanobubbles as a Clean Technology for Water Purification. Ahmed received his B.S from Assuit University in 2006, and M.S. from Assuit University in 2010. His master degree was focus on modling and characteristics of free chlorine in drinking water networks. He applied a chlorination superposition technique inorder to enhance drinking water quality.

saloni suthar

Saloni Suthar is currently a graduate student at New jersey institute of Technology, USA majoring in Environment Engineering. Saloni did her bachelors in Environment Engineering, India. She is currently working as a research assistant under supervision of Dr. Wen Zhang since past one year. I worked on with undergraduate and PhD students at NJIT on various research including (1) Reactive membrane filtration for water treatment and algal harvesting (undergraduate mentor and researcher) funded by NJIT URI phase I and II; (2) Microbial fuel cell technology for energy harvesting and wastewater treatment (undergraduate mentor and researcher) funded by NJIT URI phase I and II; (3) air scrubber technology for indoor air pollution removal (researcher) funded by NSF I-Corp; (4) EPA SBIR phase I proposal writing; (5) 2016-2017 EESF/AEESP Student Design Competition (major participant). She also participate in 2015-16 graduate Research and Innovation Student Seed Grants (Phase I: $500 and Phase II: $3000): Development of Multifunctional Reactive Air Purifier Systems for PM2.5 and Other Indoor Air Pollutants. She is actively seeking experience in various environment field. Exploring her capabilities and enhancing new research skills.

Lab Notes

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Additional Information

The reference cited in this proposal:

1. Hua, L.; Guo, L.; Thakkar, M.; Wei, D.; Agbakpe, M.; Kuang, L.; Magpile, M.; Chaplin, B. P.; Tao, Y.; Shuai, D.; Zhang, X.; Mitra, S.; Zhang, W., Effects of anodic oxidation of a substoichiometric titanium dioxide reactive electrochemical membrane on algal cell destabilization and lipid extraction. Bioresource Technology 2016, 203, 112-117.

2. Li, P.; Takahashi, M.; Chiba, K., Enhanced free-radical generation by shrinking microbubbles using a copper catalyst. Chemosphere 2009, 77, 1157-1160.

3. Oshita, S.; Liu, S. In Nanobubbles characteristics and its application to agriculture and foods, International Symposium on Agri-Foods for Health and Wealth, August, 2013; pp 5-8.

4. Takahashi, M.; Kawamura, T.; Yamamoto, Y.; Ohnari, H.; Himuro, S.; Shakutsui, H., Effect of shrinking microbubble on gas hydrate formation. The Journal of Physical Chemistry B 2003, 107, 2171-2173.

5. Takahashi, M.; Chiba, K.; Li, P., Free-radical generation from collapsing microbubbles in the absence of a dynamic stimulus. The Journal of Physical Chemistry B 2007, 111, 1343-1347. (accessed 21 July 2016) (last updated February 25, 2016). (2016)

7. Carmichael, W. W.; Boyer, G. L., Health impacts from cyanobacteria harmful algae blooms: Implications for the North American Great Lakes. Harmful Algae 2016, 54, 194-212.

8. Brooks, B. W.; Grover, J. P.; Roelke, D. L., Prymnesium parvum: an emerging threat to inland waters. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry 2011, 30, 1955-1964.

9. Hambright, K., Golden algae & the health of Okla. lakes. Lakeline, Fall 2012, 33-38.

10. Ge, S.; Agbakpe, M.; Wu, Z.; Kuang, L.; Zhang, W.; Wang, X., Influences of Surface Coating, UV Irradiation and Magnetic Field on the Algae Removal Using Magnetite Nanoparticles. Environ. Sci. Technol. 2014, 49, 1190-1196.

11. Ge, S.; Agbakpe, M.; Zhang, W.; Kuang, L., Heteroaggregation between PEI-Coated Magnetic Nanoparticles and Algae: Effect of Particle Size on Algal Harvesting Efficiency. Acs Applied Materials & Interfaces 2015, 7, 6102-6108.

12. Agbakpe, M.; Ge, S.; Zhang, W.; Zhang, X.; Kobylarz, P., Algae harvesting for biofuel production: Influences of UV irradiation and polyethylenimine (PEI) coating on bacterial biocoagulation. Bioresource Technology 2014, 166, 266–272.

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