Eutrophication of water catchments and the greenhouse effect are major challenges in developing the global economy in the near future. Secondary effluents, containing high amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus, need further treatment before being discharged into receiving water bodies. At the same time, new environmentally friendly energy sources need to be developed. Integrating microalgal cultivation for the production of biodiesel feedstock with the treatment of secondary effluent is one way of addressing both issues. This article provides a comprehensive review of the latest progress in microalgal cultivation in secondary effluent to remove pollutants and accumulate lipids. Researchers have discovered that microalgae remove nitrogen and phosphorus effectively from secondary effluent, accumulating biomass and lipids in the process. Immobilization of appropriate microalgae, and establishing a consortium of microalgae and/or bacteria, were both found to be feasible ways to enhance pollutant removal and lipid production. Demonstrations of pilot-scale microalgal cultures in secondary effluent have also taken place. However there is still much work to be done in improving pollutants removal, biomass production, and lipid accumulation in secondary effluent. This includes screening microalgae, constructing the consortium, making use of flue gas and nitrogen, developing technologies related to microalgal harvesting, and using lipid-extracted algal residues (LEA).
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