Microalgal growth characteristics and subsequent influence on dewatering efficiency
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Dewatering of microalgal culture is a major bottleneck towards the industrial-scale processing of microalgae for bio-diesel production. The dilute nature of harvested microalgal cultures poses a huge operation cost to dewater; thereby rendering microalgae-based fuels less economically attractive. This study explores the influence of microalgal growth phases and intercellular interactions during cultivation on dewatering efficiency of microalgae cultures. Experimental results show that microalgal cultures harvested during a low growth rate phase (LGRP) of 0.03 d-1 allowed a higher rate of settling than those harvested during a high growth rate phase (HGRP) of 0.11 d-1, even though the latter displayed a higher average differential biomass concentration of 0.2 g L-1 d-1. Zeta potential profile during the cultivation process showed a maximum electronegative value of -43.2 ± 0.7 mV during the HGRP which declined to stabilization at -34.5 ± 0.4 mV in the LGRP. The lower settling rate observed for HGRP microalgae is hence attributed to the high stability of the microalgal cells which electrostatically repel each other during this growth phase. Tangential flow filtration of 20 L HGRP culture concentrated 23 times by consuming 0.51 kWh/m3 of supernatant removed whilst 0.38 kWh/m3 was consumed to concentrate 20 L of LGRP by 48 times. © 2009 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
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