Dewatering of microalgal culture for biodiesel production: Exploring polymer flocculation and tangential flow filtration
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Background: Conventional biodiesel production relies on trans-esterification of lipids extracted from vegetable crops. However, the use of valuable vegetable food stocks as raw material for biodiesel production makes it an unfeasibly expensive process. Used cooking oil is a finite resource and requires extra downstream processing, which affects the amount of biodiesel that can be produced and the economics of the process. Lipids extracted from microalgae are considered an alternative raw material for biodiesel production. This is primarily due to the fast growth rate of these species in a simple aquaculture environment. However, the dilute nature of microalgae culture puts a huge economic burden on the dewatering process especially on an industrial scale. This current study explores the performance and economic viability of chemical flocculation and tangential flow filtration (TFF) for the dewatering of Tetraselmis suecicamicroalgae culture. Results: Results show that TFF concentrates the microalgae feedstock up to 148 times by consuming 2.06 kWh m-3 of energy while flocculation consumes 14.81 kWhm-3 to concentrate the microalgae up to 357 times. Economic evaluation demonstrates that even though TFF has higher initial capital investment than polymer flocculation, the payback period for TFF at the upper extreme ofmicroalgae revenue is ~1.5 years while that of flocculation is ~3 years. Conclusion: These results illustrate that improved dewatering levels can be achieved more economically by employing TFF. The performances of these two techniques are also compared with other dewatering techniques. © 2009 Society of Chemical Industry.
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