Development of a cost-efficient membrane process using vibrational membranes for microalgae harvesting

Microalgae are of interest to the aquaculture, animal feed, pharmaceutical, cosmetic and biofuel industries due to their ability to synthesize a wide range of valuable compounds, such as omega 3 fatty acids, carotenoid pigments including astaxanthin and biodiesel precursors. Currently, commercial microalgal production is limited to high-value nutraceuticals and personal care products due to the use of expensive harvesting technology by continuous centrifugation. A cost-efficient separation process is needed to extend the range of economical microalgal products. Membrane filtration has several advantages over other conventional harvesting processes: it provides high solid output (up to 10% dry weight), requires no chemical dosing, ease to scale-up and consumes less energy. However, the membrane filtration efficiency can be reduced by membrane fouling, which includes the adsorption or gelling of cell-derived macromolecules, and/or pore blockage or cake layer formation by biomass particulates.

This project investigates the use of Submerged vibrational ultrafiltration (SVUF) which has the potential to overcoming these drawbacks. Compared to common anti-fouling strategies, such as cross flow and aeration, SVUF introduces shear to the membrane surface without any harm to algal cell integrity and reduces the fouling rate effectively.

Image: Vibrational membrane experimental set-up (Photo Credit: Zijun Zhang)

 

Project Funding Source(s) and Partners 

  • Postgraduate Research Training Scholarship

Chief Investigators

 

Current PhD Candidate(s)