Fluorescence probes: towards automatic coagulant dosing

University essay from KTH/Hållbar utveckling, miljövetenskap och teknik

Abstract: There is a current lack of accurate tools to determine the concentration of cyanobacteria in situ.  Besides, cyanobacterial blooms have to be carefully monitored in reservoirs as they are more frequent because of climate change and can lead to potential released of toxins, along with other components. This project investigates the possible use of fluorescent probes to measure the concentration of different types of organic matter released by the algae. Three different species of toxic cyanobacteria were chosen to carry out this research as they are representative of the local harmful blooms found across Australia. Furthermore, the efficiency of two different chemicals (powdered activated carbon, also known as PAC, and alum) used in drinking water treatment plants were investigated, in order to determine a method for automatic dosage adjustment in water treatment plant. The organic matter was characterized by LC-OCD and fluorescence spectroscopy and statistical analysis such as principal component analysis was performed on the generated data. General characterization of the different species was firstly performed and globally, similar comportments were observed among the three cyanobacteria species. There is indeed a general increase in the release of organic material throughout the cell’s growth phase. Results from the jar tests showed that PAC mainly targeted humic-like substances and building blocks, which are middle size particles. The average removal rate obtained was 40µg/L per mg/L of PAC added into the water. Therefore, there is indication that the decreased efficiency for the removal of the taste and odor compounds observed in certain plants can be partially attributed to direct competition of organic matter adsorption onto PAC instead of a blockage of the PAC pores by larger particles. On the other hand, alum was able to remove large particles, particularly biopolymers and also humic-substances. However, a great increase of the low molecular weight molecules at very high doses of alum was seen, which suggest that a too high dose of alum is toxic for the algae cells. Based on the bench scale testing the recommended dose of 50 mg/L seems to be optimum for the studied water treatment plant. Specific ultraviolet absorbance and dissolved organic carbon measurements were also investigated and good correlations were found between the concentration of humic-like substances and absorbance, confirming that they are good measure to assess the content of organic matter in the water. However, as the slope coefficient of the linear trend varied between the species, it was not possible to obtain a common conversion factor for all the species. Finally, one fluorophore was found in common to all the samples and is characterized by the excitation-emission wavelength: 240/440 nm. Correlations with the chromatography’s results were investigated and this component seems to match the biopolymers and humic-like substances concentrations. Furthermore, its intensity decreases continuously with the addition of PAC whereas a drop was observed at the lower doses of alum. In regards on these findings, a method for automatic chemicals dosing from the fluorescence measures was proposed.

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