Vivekananda Institute of Algal technology

The management of Ramakrishna Mission Vidyapith inaugurated "Vivekananda Institute of Algal Technology (VIAT)" - an institute dedicated to research and development of algae based technologies on 17th April 2006. .VIAT is specializing in Algae based Research & Consultancy Activities relating to Industrial Effluents Treatment, Municipal Sewage Treatment, Waste water Treatment, Algal Biomass Utilization and CO2 & NOx Mitigation by its Phycoremediation Techniques.

R&D Objective:
1. to conduct basic and applied research in the field of Algal Technology
2. to impart scientific knowledge in the field of Algal Ecology & Physiology and Algal Biotechnology to Researchers
3. to carry on basic and applied research relating to Industrial Effluents Treatment, Municipal Sewage Treatment, Wastewater Treatment, utilization of algal biomass and CO2 & NOx Mitigation.
4. to carry forward the findings of applied research to the benefit of the community

The unit on Algal Physiology and Biotechnology at Vivekananda College started working on eco-physiological aspects of marine diatoms and other freshwater microalgae in 1988, with Dr V Sivasubramanian, the Phycoremediologist, as head. Its first international publication was on absorption and removal of heavy metals from solutions using a bio-reactor column packed with immobilized cells of Aphanocapsa pulchra, a cyanobacterium isolated from cooling towers. Since then, eighteen researchers have obtained MPhil degrees and 8 others their PhD by undertaking research with this unit. The unit has also organized three national-level workshops and four national-level symposia on various aspects of applied algology, and has more than 40 publications in national and international journals. The Algology unit started working on effluent treatment using micro algae from 2002 with the first effluent samples being obtained from Chernfab Alkalis, Pondicherry. The encouraging results obtained with the Chemfab effluent gave us great confidence in our techniques, and we began signing memoranda of understanding with a number of industries to treat effluents using microalgae. In recognition of the work being carried out by this unit, the Ramakrishna Mission Vidyapith decided to upgrade it to the Vivekananda Institute of Algal Technology (VIAT) on 17 April 2006 with Swami Satyapriyananda as Chairman, Dr V Sivasubramanian as Director, Dr V V Subramanian as Joint-Director, and six experts in the field forming the advisory committee. .

Dr. V Sivasubramanian is the Founder Secretary of Limnological Society of India. He involved himself and his team in treating the effluents from various industries including Orchid Pharmaceuticals, Chennai, SNAP Natural and Alginate Products, Ranipet, Ultramarine Pigments Ltd., Ranipet, STAHL India Ltd., Ranipet, using phycoremediation. Based on the success of this new technology, many industries such as the Wheels India, SUNTEX Processing Mills, Perfetti van Melle, Coca Cola, for instance, are seeking solutions for effective effluent treatment through phycoremediation.

Why Micro Algae? Microalgae have vast industrial and economic potential as a valuable source of pharmaceuticals, health foods, carotenoids, dyes, biofuel, and the like. The history of the commercial use of algal cultures with various applications goes back about fifty years. Furthermore, it has been suggested that algae may be able to solve emerging environmental problems, such as the greenhouse effect and industrial pollution. Algae can fix carbon dioxide by photosynthesis (which isof help in countering global warming) and produce nutrients efficiency at minimal cost. In addition, photosynthetically produced oxygen can meet the high biological oxygen demand (BOD) of waste water. Microalgae also have the ability to fix nitrogen in various ways as well as absorb heavy metals and phosphorus. They can utilize various organic compounds as their carbon source. All these factors have attracted many researchers to the study of microalgae as providing possible solutions to environmental problems. In a recent article, Venkataraman observed that 'the production technologies of microalgae and biochemicals of high value [derived] from them have not been substantial. The reasons are many and reflect the ethos of industry and [the] inability to adopt unconventional technologies. Control of algal growth in unwanted regions viz., ponds, lakes, industrial pipelines, [and] swimming pools, which has a huge market, has never been addressed. India has failed to introduce anything special and saleable in this area of algal technology as in the West. This is a paradox considering that most parts of India with plentiful sunshine are really well-suited for algal production almost [all the] year around. Waste-water-grown microalgal products with commercial value are few in number. The most widespread use of algae in India is for photosynthetic oxygenation. Sludge containing microalgae is also used for biogas production and as fertilizer. There are, however, many micro algal products that have been developed in the laboratory, and a few of these have been put to commercial use. These could also be produced from waste water, with considerable economic benefit. Microalgae can be used for generating hydrogen gas, as feed for aquaculture, as advanced fertilizers, and as biochemical nutrients. Only about one per thousand of the world's algal species have been sufficiently explored with regard to their biochemical content; in India the fraction is still lower. It is high time that scientists and industry personnel in India worked together to find eco-friendly' and cost-effective solutions, using micro algal technology, for the problems caused by effluents.

Phycoremediation: Eco-friendly Management of Effluents VIAT has been involved in projects on effluent treatment employing microalgae, a process popularly called phycoremediation, which is a natural and eco-friendly way of treating effluents for safe disposal. For example, to treat acidic water, large amounts of buffering material such as caustic soda are traditionally added to reduce the acidity. In phycoremediation, instead of adding chemicals, algae are inoculated into the polluted water, and these increase the pH through biological means. This is both eco-friendly and cost-effective. Phycoremediation may broadly be defined as the use of macro- or micro-algae for the removal or biotransformation of pollutants -including nutrients and xenobiotics-from waste water, and carbon dioxide from polluted air. Presently, phycoremediation is applied in three major ways: (i) nutrient removal from municipal waste water and effluents rich in organic matter; (ii) removal of nutrients and xenobiotic compounds from industrial effluents with the aid of algae-based biosorbents; and (iii) treatment of acidic and metal waste waters. .

The Algal Technology unit organized a National Symposium on “Algae and Environment” in collaboration with Krishnamurthy Institute of Algology during September 2005.

On the occasion of the Diamond Jubilee of the Ramakrishna Mission Vivekananda College, the institute in collaboration with the Krishnamurthy Institute of Algology conducted a National Symposium on “Algal Biodiversity and Its Role in Bioremediation” during 23-25th September 2006.

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VIAT inauguration pics