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Here’s an interesting research project that had been planned to be started at Newcastle University (School of Chemical Engineering and Advanced Materials and School of Marine Science and Technology), in Oct 2008
The use of fresh water and marine algae to produce oil for conversion to transport fuel has attracted growing interest over the last thirty years. This interest has intensified over the last five years with the realisation that algal biofuels represent a low carbon and sustainable source of transport fuels that will not compete with food crops.
Besides finding the most appropriate species of algae for culture and understanding how to cultivate them on a large scale, one of the major bottlenecks in the process is harvesting the algae from the growth medium. A volume reduction of between 10 and 100 fold is required to yield a product that is suitable for oil extraction. Whilst this is achievable using current technology the cost of doing so is prohibitive. A cheaper way of separating the algae from the growth medium is to allow them to form floccs. Floccs are aggregations of individual algae that due to their large size settle quickly from the medium. This makes the separation of the algae from the medium straightforward and cheap. This process, called bio-flocculation remains poorly understood.
This joint project between the School of Marine Science and Technology and the School of Chemical Engineering and Advanced Materials at Newcastle University aims to investigate the process of bio-flocculation in the context of algal culture for biofuel production. The investigation will be in two parts:
• An Investigation of the Mechanisms of Bio-flocculation
Experimental work will use a system where the collision rate between algal cells is well defined. Laser-Doppler anemometry will be used to determine how the size of the algal aggregates changes over time. This information will allow the effects of temperature, nutrient conditions and pH to be investigated and for proposed mechanisms of bio-flocculation to be tested.
• The Effect of Chemical Additives and Other Organisms on Bio-flocculation
In an attempt to speed up/control the process of bio-flocculation, the methods and understanding developed in the first part of the project will be used to screen chemical additives and other microorganisms for their ability to enhance flocculation rate.”
I am hoping that projects such as these lead to cheaper methods of microalgae harvesting
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