Idee voor challenge:
Klimaatpositief afvalwater zuiveren / Wastewater treatment drawdown
Microalgae are among the fastest growing organisms in the world and can capture up to 1.8 kg of CO2 per kg of biomass using photosynthesis. Optimizing microalgae growth with a sole purpose of carbon capture in mind has been left unexplored while it is one of the most effective and energy-efficient ways to do so. Currently, microalgae production is still expensive, often ranging between 5€ and 10€ kgDW-1. However, by adopting a set of innovative technologies it is expected that this price can be significantly reduced to less than 1.5 € kg-1. One of these technologies is using nutrient-rich wastewater streams as growth medium, removing pollutants from the water, while reducing production costs for the microalgae. The technology has already been proven for nitrogen, phosphorus & COD (chemical oxygen demand), and when using mixed algal and microbial consortia for calcium as well (see papers in supplementary files).
To make this a carbon-negative and cost effective solution, the produced microalgae biomass is converted to microalgae aggregates, which are used as a substitute for construction aggregates. This makes sure that the fixated carbon is stored for the long term and it allows concrete producers to make carbon neutral concrete. Additionally, by coupling Carbon Capture to Utilization & Storage (CCUS), a net positive cash flow per tonne of CO2 captured can be generated.
Concrete production currently causes 8.6% of global CO2 emissions. Addressing this industry in terms of sustainability is one of the most cost-effective ways of climate action. We are producing a plug-and-play solution for the concrete market by processing microalgae biomass to aggregates as substitution for normal construction aggregates in concrete. This will eliminate the carbon emissions made by the concrete industry while there is effectively no change in their well-established workflow.
A preliminary LCA has been made of a straw-man production process for microalgae growth and production of microalgae aggregates, showing that only 0.07kg CO2 per kgDW (kg dry weight) of produced algae is emitted. This results in a net capture of 1.73kg CO2 per kgDW and proves that the process is net-negative. On request, a report of this LCA can be provided.
Although this is not a solution for the complete process of water-treatment, it can be deployed as a part of it, significantly reducing carbon emissions overall.
This idea has been submitted as a proposal for the global XPRIZE for carbon removal (https://www.xprize.org/prizes/elonmusk) and I, together with 5 other motivated students from 3 different technical universities in the Netherlands, created a start-up around it, called Miona (www.linkedin.com/company/mionabv). Furthermore, we have diverse team and support from 4 technical top-universities of the Netherlands (WUR, TUD, TUE, UT), the start-up incubator from Wageningen University & Research, StartHub (https://www.starthubwageningen.nl), & the 4TU federation (https://www.4tu.nl/en/). We have already showcased that it is possible to turn the captured carbon into aggregates with stone-like properties in our first microalgae aggregates prototypes, making a sustainable substitute to existing building materials.
To develop this idea further it would be of great help to get into contact with experts on waste-water treatments from industry to see if there are possibilities for co-creation and development of the technology.
Thank you for considering and good luck during the selection!
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Winnend innoveren doen we immers samen.
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