Combining microalgae and nitrifiers in a single photobioreactor has attracted attention as an alternative approach for conventional nitrogen removal from wastewater. However, nitrifiers are known to be sensitive to light exposure. This study demonstrated the effectiveness of using fluidized carriers to mitigate light stress in nitrifiers. An outdoor raceway pond containing microalgae and nitrifiers with fluidized carriers was used to treat two-fold diluted anaerobic digestion effluent (785 mg-N L−1 as a form of dissolved total Kjeldahl nitrogen: TKN) over 50 days. The average daily sunlight intensity reached the inhibition level of nitrifiers (423 μmol photons m−2 s−1); however, stable nitrification with a specific ammonium oxidation rate of 55 mg-N g-total suspended solid−1 day−1 was observed. TKN was mostly removed via nitrifier metabolism (ammonium oxidation and uptake: 40.1%) and partially via microalgae uptake (5.7%). Different microalgae-based processes including that of this study were compared in terms of tolerances to a high dissolved TKN concentration and strong light. Our system showed a relatively higher resistance to not only light exposure but also TKN because the nitrification process decreased the free ammonia level to less than 0.25 mg L−1, which allowed microalgae to grow despite the high ammonium concentration.

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