William Oswald Algae Research Archive

William OswaldWilliam Oswald, a UC Berkeley professor and Lawrence Berkeley National Lab scientist, had an extremely productive and creative career focused on the themes of:

  • low-cost wastewater treatment
  • recovery of nutrients
  • energy, and clean water from wastewater
  • algal biotechnology

His student and long-time associate, Tryg Lundquist, selected the papers below to represent the range of Professor Oswald's work and to provide easy access to some of his earlier papers.

Links & Descriptions for Selected Papers

(1)   "Algae Symbiosis in Oxidation Ponds.  I. Growth Characteristics of  Euglena gracilis Cultured in Sewage," with H.F. Ludwig, H.B. Gotaas and V. Lynch.  Sewage and Industrial Wastes 23:11, (November 1951).

(2)  "Algae Symbiosis in Oxidation Ponds.  II.  Growth Characteristics of Chlorella pyrenoidosa Cultured in Sewage," with H.B. Gotaas, H.F. Ludwig and V. Lynch.  Reprinted in Sewage and Industrial Wastes 25:1, (January 1953).

(3)  "Algae Symbiosis in Oxidation Ponds.  III. Photosynthetic Oxygenation," with H.B. Gotaas, H.F. Ludwig and V. Lynch.  Sewage and Industrial Wastes 25:6, (June 1953).  

The Harrison Prescott Eddy Medal was awarded by the Water Pollution Control Federation for the final paper in this series of three.  These papers were the first to determine the oxygen yield of algae grown in sewage.  Previously, the role of algae in wastewater treatment ponds was anecdotal, and designs were entirely empirical.  In addition to oxygen yield, Papers I and II show the relationships of BOD loading and culture age on the chlorophyll content of algae.  

Paper III defines “photosynthetic oxygenation” in contrast with mechanical aeration, defines “algal-bacterial symbiosis” in sewage ponds, and promotes the idea of integration of the bacterial and algal zones of sewage ponds via recirculation.  The paper shows the effect of light intensity on algae yield and on the content in algae of chlorophyll, carbohydrates, lipids, protein, inert solids, C, H, N, and P.  Oxygen production is characterized in terms of light intensity, BOD loading, and hydraulic residence time.  The treatment improvements due to optimization of light, temperature, nutrients, and BOD are discussed.  These three data-dense papers considerably advanced the understanding of treatment in ponds.  

(2)  "Photosynthesis in Sewage Treatment," with H.B. Gotaas.  Paper presented before the Sanitary Engineering Division, American Society of Civil Engineers, New York, N.Y.,  (October 1954).  Reprinted in Transactions of the American Society of Civil Engineers, Volume 122, (1957).

ASCE awarded both the Rudolf Hering Medal and the James Croes Medal for this paper which described part of Dr. Oswald’s dissertation work.  The paper introduces idea of using algae as a means to recover nutrients from sewage and the fix solar energy.  New design equations for algae culture systems and a new pond classification method are described.  The diagram of algal-bacterial symbiosis, adapted by many authors since, is first published, and the idea of protein production by waste-grown algae is introduced.  

(3)  "The Coming Industry of Controlled Photosynthesis." American Journal of Public Health 52:2, (February 1962).

Describes the vital role of photosynthesis in civilization and “controlled photosynthesis” as a means to improve human welfare.  

(4)  “Closed Ecological Systems," with C.G. Golueke.  Journal of the Sanitary Engineering Division 91:SA4, (August 1965).  

ASCE gave Oswald and Golueke the Arthur M. Wellington Award for this paper that summarizes several years of innovative research on life support systems designed for space stations and Mars voyages.  The paper demonstrates the need for extensive on-board water recycling due to the difficulty in launching enough water for long voyages; uses human metabolic and physiological information to calculate the required rate of recycling of water, oxygen, and carbon dioxide; and describes the “Microterella,” a self-regulating, algal-bacterial system that supported mice in a semi-closed environment for over six weeks.  Also described is a similar device scaled-up for human use and for zero-gravity environments, called the “Algatron.”  It converted wastewater into distilled water, absorbed carbon dioxide, produced oxygen, and controlled capsule humidity and overall capsule spin rate.  A conceptual design for installation of dual Algatrons in a C-5 rocket is shown.  

(5)  "Eutrophication Trends in the United States - A Problem?," with C.G. Golueke.  Paper presented  before the  Water  Pollution  Control  Federation,  Atlantic  City, New Jersey, (October 11, 1965). Reprinted in Journal of the Water Pollution Control Federation, 38:6, (June 1966).  

Introduces the ecological concept of a “Nutrient Shed” as a motivation for nutrient recycling; describes the developing Algae Growth Potential assay, now a standard procedure in water quality evaluation.  

(6)  "Integrated Pond Systems for Subdivisions," with C.G. Golueke and R.W. Tyler.   Paper presented before Section 21 of the 39th Annual Meeting of the Water Pollution Control Federation, Kansas City, Missouri, (September 29, 1966).  Reprinted in Journal of the Water Pollution Control Federation 39:8, (August 1967).  

Introduces the design of wastewater treatment ponds as attractive features of community parks; promotes the concept of decentralized wastewater treatment.  

(7)  "Recycle System for Poultry Wastes," with G.L. Dugan and C.G. Golueke. Journal of the Water Pollution Control Federation, 44:3, p. 432, (1972).  

Describes the development and field tests of a more sustainable poultry production method.   Methane is produced by manure digestion; digester supernatant is used as algae growth medium; and harvested algae become a protein-rich feed supplement for the chickens.  Finally, treated water become recycled pen flush water to complete the cycle.  

(8)  "An Algal Regenerative System for Single-Family Farms and Villages," with C.G. Golueke.  Compost Science Journal of Waste Recycling, (May-June 1973).  

This general audience article describes a system for rural households that integrated water supply, sanitation, biogas production for light and heat, and animal production.  Adapted from research reports and illustrated with architectural drawings.  

(9)  "Energy Production by Microbial Photosynthesis," with J.R. Benemann, J.C. Weissman, and B.L. Koopman, Nature, 268:19-23, (July 1977).  

Reviews the practical and scientific aspects of energy and fertilizer production from algal-bacterial waste treatment systems.  Outlines research needs.  

(10)  "Advanced Integrated Wastewater Pond Systems," In: Supplying Water and Saving the Environment for Six Billion People, Proceedings of the 1990 ASCE Env. Eng. Div. Conf., eds. U.P. Singh and O.J. Helweg, Amer. Soc. Civil Eng., 345 East 47th St., New York, NY 10017-2398, (November 1990).  

Introduces and defines the Advanced Integrated Wastewater Pond System as a series consisting of an Advanced Facultative Pond with sludge digestion pits, High Rate Ponds, Algae Settling Ponds, and Maturation Ponds.  

(11)   "Ponds in the Twenty-first Century."  Keynote Address at the Second IAWQ International Specialist Conference on Waste Stabilization Ponds and the Reuse of Pond Effluents, November 30-December 3, 1993, Berkeley, California. Reprinted in Water Science and Technology, Vol. 31, No. 12, pp. 1-8, (1995)  

Quantitatively considers population growth, resource depletion and options for algal protein production on marginal and salinized croplands.  

(12)  "Energetics of Advanced Integrated Wastewater Pond Systems" with F.B. Green, and T.J. Lundquist.   Water Science and Technology, Vol. 31, No. 12, pp. 9-20, (1995).  

(13)  "Methane Fermentation, Submerged Gas Collection, and the Fate of Carbon in Advanced Integrated Wastewater Pond Systems" with F.B. Green, L. Bernstone, T.J. Lundquist, J. Muir, and R.B.  Tresan.  Water Science and Technology, Vol. 31, No. 12, pp.55-65, (1995).  

These two articles describe a submerged biogas collection apparatus and compare the energy intensity of pond systems to several mechanical treatment technologies.  

(14)  "Advanced Integrated Wastewater Pond Systems for Nitrogen Removal,” with F.B. Green, T.J. Lundquist, and L.S. Bernstone. Water Science and Technology, Vol. 33, No. 7, pp. 207-217 (1996).  

Describes the many mechanisms of nitrogen control in pond systems including heterotrophic nitrification-denitrification.  

(15)  “My Sixty Years in Applied Algology.” Keynote address, Ninth International Conference on Applied Algology. May 26-31, 2002, Almeria, Spain.  Reprinted in.Journal of Applied Phycology, Vol. 15, No. 99, pp. 99-106 (2002).  

Describes Professor Oswald’s career path and his goals for the future of applied phycology and sustainable wastewater treatment.  

In addition to the topics in the above works, Professor Oswald also published on a wide variety of other topics, such as the following:  

  • Detection of microbial populations in the upper atmosphere
  • The production, capture, and use of biogas from livestock manure treatment ponds
  • Remote sensing characterization of algae blooms in natural water bodies
  • The mechanical harvesting of algae from natural water bodies
  • Food-grade algae production and product quality control methods
  • Single cell protein production
  • The effect of phosphate detergents on receiving waters
  • The control and beneficial use of thermal discharges such as those from power plants
  • The transformations and removal of selenium compounds in agricultural drainage water
  • Reverse osmosis for reclamation of wastewater and for production of useful brines
  • Algae harvesting methods
  • Industrial waste treatment: canneries, sugar factories, tanneries, oil refineries, slaughterhouses, etc.