Harvesting economics and strategies using centrifugation for cost effective separation of microalgae cells for biodiesel applications

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Inefficient or energy-intensive microalgal harvesting strategies for biodiesel production have been a major setback in the microalgae industry. Harvesting by centrifugation is generally characterized by high capture efficiency ( > 90%) under low flow rates and high energy consumption. However, results from the present study demonstrated that by increasing the flow rates ( > 1L/min), the lower capture efficiencies ( < 90%) can be offset by the larger volumes of culture water processed through the centrifuge, resulting in net lower energy consumption. Energy consumption was reduced by 82% when only 28.5% of the incoming algal biomass was harvested at a rate of 18 L/min by centrifugation. Harvesting algal species with a high lipid content and high culture density could see harvesting costs of $0.864/L oil using the low efficiency/high flow rate centrifugation strategy as opposed to $4.52/L oil using numbers provided by the Department of Energy for centrifugation harvesting.

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Bioresource technology

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