Microalgae Growth in a Biocathode-Photosynthesis Microbial Desalination Cell: Molecular Characterization, Modeling Study, and Performance Evaluation


  • Ahmed M. Sadeq Department of Environmental Engineering, College of Engineering, University of Baghdad, Baghdad, Iraq
  • Zainab Z. Ismail Department of Environmental Engineering, College of Engineering, University of Baghdad, Baghdad, Iraq https://orcid.org/0000-0003-3528-9812




Microbial characterization, microalgae, NCBI GenBank, growth kinetic model, biocathode, photosynthesis microbial fuel cell


This study aimed to comprehensively characterize and identify microalgae inhabiting the biocathode compartment of a photosynthetic microbial desalination cell (PMDC). Also, modeling of microalgae growth in the biocathode was considered as well as the interrelation between the growth of microalgae and dissolved oxygen (DO) generation within the biocathode. The general performance of the PMDC was evaluated based on; (1) organic content removal from the real domestic wastewater fed to the anode compartment, (2) salinity removal from actual seawater in the desalination compartment, and (3) power generation in the PMDC. The results unveiled the presence of two distinct microalgae species, specifically Coelastrella sp. and Mariniradius saccharolyticus, which were thoroughly characterized using 16S rRNA and ITS gene sequencing within the cathodic chamber of the PMDC. Following sequence editing and trimming, the resulting sequences were meticulously submitted to the NCBI GenBank and juxtaposed with other sequences utilizing the GenBank online BLAST software. Importantly, the obtained data demonstrated a good correlation with coefficients of determination (R²) reaching 0.83, as per the employed kinetic models. Complete removal of up to 99.11% of organic content from the real domestic wastewater was obtained in the PMDC system with maximum efficiency of desalination elimination of 80.95% associated with a maximum power output of 420 mW/m3 in the system.


B. E. Logan, "Microbial fuel cells," John Wiley & Sons, 2008, https://doi.org/10.1002/9780470258590

S. S. Jaroo, G. F. Jumaah, and T. R. Abbas, "Photosynthetic microbial desalination cell to treat oily wastewater using microalgae Chlorella vulgaris," Civil Engineering Journal, vol. 5, pp. 2686-2699, 2019, https://doi.org/10.28991/cej-2019-03091441

B. Kokabian, V. G. Gude, R. Smith, and J. P. Brooks, "Evaluation of anammox biocathode in microbial desalination and wastewater treatment," Chemical Engineering Journal, vol. 342, pp. 410-419, 2018, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cej.2018.02.088

R. M. Khazaal and Z. Z. Ismail, "Optimization and Modeling the Performance of a Mediator-less Microbial Fuel Cell Using Butler-Volmer-Monod Model," Journal of Engineering, vol. 26, no. 9, pp. 83-94, 2020, https://doi.org/10.31026/j.eng.2020.09.06

I. Gajda, J. Greenman, C. Melhuish, and I. Ieropoulos, "Self-sustainable electricity production from algae grown in a microbial fuel cell system," Biomass and Bioenergy, vol. 82, pp. 87-93, 2015, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biombioe.2015.05.017

B. Kokabian and V. G. Gude, "Sustainable photosynthetic biocathode in microbial desalination cells," Chemical Engineering Journal, vol. 262, pp. 958-965, 2015, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cej.2014.10.048

A. S. Commault, G. Lear, P. Novis, and R. J. Weld, "Photosynthetic biocathode enhances the power output of a sediment-type microbial fuel cell," New Zealand Journal of Botany, vol. 52, pp. 48-59, 2014, https://doi.org/10.1080/0028825X.2013.870217

C. Wu, X.-W. Liu, W.-W. Li, G.-P. Sheng, G.-L. Zang, Y.-Y. Cheng, N. Shen, Y.-P. Yang, and H.-Q. Yu, "A white-rot fungus is used as a biocathode to improve electricity production of a microbial fuel cell," Applied Energy, vol. 98, pp. 594-596, 2012, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.apenergy.2012.02.058

L. Solden, K. Lloyd, and K. Wrighton, "The bright side of microbial dark matter: lessons learned from the uncultivated majority," Current Opinion in Microbiology, vol. 31, pp. 217-226, 2016, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mib.2016.04.020

S. Rasoul-Amini, Y. Ghasemi, M. H. Morowvat, and A. Mohagheghzadeh, “PCR amplification of 18S rRNA, single cell protein production and fatty acid evaluation of some naturally isolated microalgae,” Food Chemistry, vol. 116, no. 1, pp. 129–136, 2009, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foodchem.2009.02.025

P. M. Novis, C. Halle, B. Wilson, and L. A. Tremblay, "Identification and characterization of freshwater algae from a pollution gradient using rbcL sequencing and toxicity testing," Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, vol. 57, pp. 504-514, 2009, https://doi.org/10.1007/s00244-009-9312-0

U. John, S. Beszteri, G. Gloeckner, R. Singh, L. Medlin, and A. D. Cembella, "Genomic characterisation of the ichthyotoxic prymnesiophyte Chrysochromulina polylepis, and the expression of polyketide synthase genes in synchronized cultures," European Journal of Phycology, vol. 45, no. 3, pp. 215-229, 2010, https://doi.org/10.1080/09670261003746193

M. B. Aldin, N. M. Ardalan, and K. A. Jassim, "Isolation and Molecular Characterization of Acanthamoeba spp. from Iraqi Patients with Keratitis," Baghdad Science Journal, Nov. 2023., https://doi.org/10.21123/bsj.2023.8059

Pandey, S., I. Narayanan, R. Vinayagam, R. Selvaraj, T. Varadavenkatesan, and A. Pugazhendhi, "A Review on the Effect of Blue Green 11 Medium and its Constituents on Microalgal Growth and Lipid Production," Journal of Environmental Chemical Engineering, pp. 109984, 2023., https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jece.2023.109984

M. Barahoei, M. S. Hatamipour, M. Khosravi, S. Afsharzadeh, and S. E. Feghhipour, "Salinity reduction of brackish water using a chemical photosynthesis desalination cell," Science of the Total Environment, vol. 779, p. 146473, 2021, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2021.146473

S. A. Jassim and N. J. Kandala, "Molecular Detection of Enterotoxin Genes of Multiresistant Staphylococcus aureus Isolates from Different Sources of Food," Iraqi Journal of Science, vol. 62, no. 1, pp. 61-74, 2021, https://doi.org/10.24996/ijs.2021.62.1.6

H. K. Abbas and A. M. Ghareeb, "Prevalence of some Virulence Genes in Staphylococcus aureus Isolated from Iraqi Infertile Male Patients and its Effects on Sperm Parameters," Iraqi Journal of Biotechnology, vol. 22, no. 1, pp. 163-172, 2023.

T. Cheng, C. Xu, L. Lei, C. Li, Y. Zhang, and S. Zhou, "Barcoding the kingdom Plantae: new PCR primers for ITS regions of plants with improved universality and specificity," Molecular Ecology Resources, vol. 16, pp. 138-149, 2016, https://doi.org/10.1111/1755-0998.12438

L. N. Ponpandian, S. O. Rim, G. Shanmugam, J. Jeon, Y.-H. Park, S.-K. Lee, and H. Bae, "Phylogenetic characterization of bacterial endophytes from four Pinus species and their nematicidal activity against the pine wood nematode," Scientific Reports, vol. 9, p. 12457, 2019, https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-48745-6

S. Garcha, N. Verma, and S. K. Brar, "Isolation, characterization and identification of microorganisms from unorganized dairy sector wastewater and sludge samples and evaluation of their biodegradability," Water Resources and Industry, vol. 16, pp. 19-28, 2016, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.wri.2016.10.002

T. G. Albadri and M. A. Alaubydi, "Molecular Identification of Roseomonas mucosa and Determination of Some of Its Virulence Factors," Iraqi Journal of Agricultural Sciences, vol. 54, no. 2, pp. 581-588, 2023, https://doi.org/10.36103/ijas.v54i2.1734

A. M. Sadeq and Z. Z. Ismail, "Sustainable Application of Tubular Photosynthesis Microbial Desalination Cell for Simultaneous Desalination of Seawater for Potable Water Supply Associated with Sewage Treatment and Energy Recovery," Science of the Total Environment, vol. 875, p. 162630, 2023, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2023.162630

R. Filali, S. Tebbani, D. Dumur, S. Diop, A. Isambert, D. Pareau, and F. Lopes, "Estimation of Chlorella vulgaris growth rate in a continuous photobioreactor," IFAC Proceedings Volumes, vol. 44, pp. 6230-6235, 2011, https://doi.org/10.3182/20110828-6-IT-1002.02025

I. Šuikaitė, G. Vansevičiūtė, and J. Koreivienė, "An overview of the distribution and ecology of the alien cyanobacteria species in Europe," Oceanological and Hydrobiological Studies, vol. 52, no. 3, pp. 312-332, 2023, https://doi.org/10.26881/oahs-2023.3.06

M. B. Qader and M. H. AlKhafaji, "Detection of Bacterial Contamination of Imported Chicken Meat in Iraq," Iraqi Journal of Science, vol. 60, pp. 1957-1966, 2019.

I. Das, M. M. Ghangrekar, R. Satyakam, P. Srivastava, S. Khan, and H. N. Pandey, "On-site sanitary wastewater treatment system using 720-L stacked microbial fuel cell: case study," Journal of Hazardous, Toxic, and Radioactive Waste, vol. 24, no. 3, p. 04020025, 2020, https://doi.org/10.1061/(ASCE)HZ.2153-5515.0000518

W. J. Hui, E. M. David, and J. Huang, "Using C. vulgaris assisted microbial desalination cell as a green technology in landfill leachate pre-treatment: a factor-performance relation study," Journal of Water Reuse and Desalination, vol. 10, no. 1, pp. 1-16, 2020, https://doi.org/10.2166/wrd.2019.073

D. Bejjanki, K. Muthukumar, T. K. Radhakrishnan, A. Alagarsamy, A. Pugazhendhi, and S. N. Mohamed, "Simultaneous bioelectricity generation and water desalination using Oscillatoria sp. as biocatalyst in photosynthetic microbial desalination cell," Science of The Total Environment, vol. 754, p. 142215, 2021, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.142215

M. K. Zamanpour, H. R. Kariminia, and M. Vosoughi, "Electricity generation, desalination and microalgae cultivation in a biocathode-microbial desalination cell," Journal of Environmental Chemical Engineering, vol. 5, no. 1, pp. 843-848, 2017, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jece.2016.12.045

A. Morel, K. Zuo, X. Xia, J. Wei, X. Luo, P. Liang, and X. Huang, "Microbial desalination cells packed with ion-exchange resin to enhance water desalination rate," Bioresource Technology, vol. 118, pp. 43-48, 2012, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biortech.2012.04.093

N. A. A. Nadzri, N. H. M. Yasin, M. H. A. Bakar, S. Thanakodi, M. N. I. Salehmin, M. S. Takriff, M. F. N. Aznan, and T. Maeda, "Photosynthetic microbial desalination cell (PhMDC) using Chlamydomonas sp. (UKM6) and Scenedesmus sp. (UKM9) as biocatalysts for electricity production and water treatment," International Journal of Hydrogen Energy, vol. 48, no. 31, pp. 11860-11873, 2023, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijhydene.2023.01.142




How to Cite

Sadeq, A. M., & Ismail, Z. Z. (2024). Microalgae Growth in a Biocathode-Photosynthesis Microbial Desalination Cell: Molecular Characterization, Modeling Study, and Performance Evaluation. Iraqi Journal of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering, 25(1), 1-12. https://doi.org/10.31699/IJCPE.2024.1.1

Publication Dates







Published Online First