During 2019, Micaela Gómez Jousse, a Bachelor of Biological Sciences student at the National University of Comaho, carried out a degree thesis in the Laboratory of Bioenergy Processes and Processing of the Institute for Energy and Sustainable Development (IEDS) at the Bariloche Atomic Center. There, under the supervision of specialists, he conducted research to develop an alternative method for removing minerals from polluted effluents and toilets, based on the use of unicellular algae.
Among the numerous biotechnological applications of cultivating this type of algae are currently bioremediation of effluents, both domestic and industrial, which is proving particularly effective in removing minerals in effluents of low concentrations (<100 mg/L), where conventional methods become ineffective. Unicellular algae consist of a large group of photosynthetic microorganisms found in both fresh and salt water environments. Because of their inherent adaptability, native algae have evolved in polluted environments with a certain degree of resistance to metal toxicity. In particular, unicellular algae that grow naturally in a mineral-contaminated environment have been shown to have greater demineralizing abilities than those that grow in pristine environments. Furthermore, it has been observed that the ability to manipulate metals and remove them from the environment can be very irritating. In this sense, appropriate selection of an algal strain is a necessary step for the development of a successful bioremediation process.
The research study in which Gomez Jose participated led to the development of the scientific work entitled “Evaluation of the demineralization capacity of species of algae isolated from polluted environments”. It was submitted by the author, in November 2020, under the hypothetical method, in the framework of the 15th International Meeting on Geosciences organized by ICES (International Center for Geosciences). ICES is an international scientific body founded by famous Argentine and Italian institutions, with the aim of promoting interdisciplinary research work in this field, and paying special attention to studies aimed at generating knowledge to solve problems related to man and society.
In this meeting, Michaela presented a characterization of strains of algae isolated from two polluted environments in the country. To this end, eight strains of natural wetlands located in the premises of the Pilcaniyeu Technology Park at CNEA and the Reconquista River Basin were analyzed. The work included Ni2+ removal tests at different metal concentrations, initial biomass dose and contact time. Strains belonging to the genera Chlorella sp. and Scenedesmus sp. Removal efficiencies (E%) between 75-100% were obtained. The three most efficient strains were selected to determine the optimal biomass concentration and their kinetic profiles.