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Noticias Unisimón

Microalgae as an option to decontaminate water

Noviembre 05, 2020

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Microalgae as an option to decontaminate water

The value of drinking water today has far surpassed the cliché of "precious liquid." Such is the global need to have clean sources and structures needed for its purification and distribution that, according to statistics from the World Health Organization (WHO), 2.100 million people lack drinking water at home, of which 844 Millions do not have supply services, other 159 million drink it from surface water bodies, while 263 million devote more than 30 minutes a day looking for it.

This difficult scenario is compounded by the disastrous prognosis of the United Nations World Report on water resources Development 2018, which suggests that "water quality will deteriorate further in the coming decades, which will increase threats to human health, the environment and sustainable development. " It is also estimated that the largest increases in exposure to pollutants occur in low-and middle-low-income countries, mainly due to greater demographic and economic growth and the lack of wastewater management systems.

 This scenario motivated a group of researchers from the Universidad Simón Bolívar to look for alternatives for the decontamination of water bodies, but without generating other environmental problems in the affected areas.

 The research leaders, Jaime Gutiérrez Fonseca and José Rafael Consuegra Machado, explained that the axis of this project of bioremediation of the waste water is the use of microalgae able to eliminate the agents that impair its quality. They are photosynthetic microorganisms – that can be  appreciated through the microscope – that can use the contaminants that are in the water as food. What has been achieved through this research is to choose the strongest and fastest microalgae to clean the water, either in industrial processes or natural bodies of water.

Gutierrez, who is a doctor and PhD candidate in biological sciences, says that this initiative began to gestate about five years ago with the Biotechnology research group from Unisimón, then strengthened in partnership with the company Phycore and now has the Test Tube Program support from Barranquilla Mayor and Macondolab (Unisimon Business Growth Center). This district program encourages high impact technology business models with innovative products based on the use of the agile process tools and rapid prototyping.  The promoted ventures have been commended for their quality and impact.

In the case of the water cleaning project, it has already managed to decontaminate the one used by a company that uses oil in its procedures, as well as a reserved of water contaminated with animal remains in the Atlantic.

 The researchers are also working on applying this scientific development at  the Cienaga de Mallorquin, at  the Atlantico and at the Cienaga de Santiago Apostol, in Sucre, where flows the Arroyo Grande from Corozal, with very promising results. Both projects are financed with national and regional resources.

To strengthen this work, Unisimón foresees the opening of the Microalgae Biotechnology Laboratory, which will facilitate the research and development of microalgae-based solutions.

How does it work?

To the question of how microalgae act in decontamination processes, researchers describe it in a simple way: it is similar to when you compost to a tree that bears fruits like the apple; if a person ingests a spoonful of the compost, it is likely to be intoxicated, while the tree’s metabolic system is able to convert that substance into food and likewise, give rise to fruits that can later be eaten by human beings and, that is beneficial for health_is toxic.  The microalgae also take the pollutant, the whole organic load, the nitrates, the phosphates and, in general, the water contaminated by the human activities, and convert them into their food, which allows to improve the conditions of the liquid.   Researchers determine which microalgae eats a certain contaminant.

“All these microalgae are native species that are strengthened in a few reactors that we design and patent, and they are returned to the body of water in a process of bio augmentation, which is natural and harmless because you use elements and species that are in the environment.  They do not hurt and it is much more economical than through other technologies, which has always been a great concern; what we are doing is providing affordable and useful local technology and innovation to the environment,” Gutierrez said.

This process, which has already been used in other countries, can represent a revolution in the possibilities ofdecontamination of the water bodies

In recent visit to Barranquilla, the director of the Phycospectrum Environmental Research Center in India, V Sivasubramania, highlighted the benefits of algae-based bioremediation technology for the management of a variety of industrial effluents that pollute the bodies of natural waters in the world.

This researcher has been working for a few years on the use of microalgae to decontaminate important rivers, lakes and lagoons in different countries, with very good results at industrial and environmental level.  “Recently, the Government of India began a process of environmental decontamination of their bodies of water using this technique, with positive results,” he said at the time.

For  Doctor Consuegra Machado, an expert in innovation and technology, all these initiatives give hope to communities which have had their hands tied by a difficult problem to solve due to the costs of the current technologies most used. From his point of view, "we see not only a solution with clean technology but also with a very affordable value for governments and  interested agents, with the plus that after the decontamination process the resultant is a biomass that can be used in different Productive processes that will leave as a  result not only the decontamination of the water body, but a  new productive form for the community inserted in the contaminated area. " Innovate and undertake

The  research and innovation vice-rector from  Universidad Simón Bolívar, Paola Amar Sepúlveda, highlighted the environmental and social impact that this type of initiatives generate, as well as the model of innovation and entrepreneurship that it employs.

She said that "the business model that is employed is not very common in the Caribbean because it is based on science; It is an innovation that employs less costly and invasive methods with better results in the environmental conservation of traditionally contaminated water bodies. "


 

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Barranquilla Headquarters

Headquarters

Carrera 59 No. 59-65
PBX +57 (5) 344 4333.
Fax : +57 (5) 3682892

Extended Programs in Cúcuta
en Cúcuta

Av 3 No. 13-34 La Playa
P.B.X: +57 (7) 582 7070
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