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Minimizing the Energy Requirement of Dewatering Scenedesmus sp. by Microfiltration: Performance, Costs, and Feasibility

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journal contribution
posted on 07.01.2014, 00:00 by Michael L. Gerardo, Darren L. Oatley-Radcliffe, Robert W. Lovitt
The harvesting of the microalgae Scenedesmus species using a 200 L pilot-scale microfiltration system was investigated and critically assessed. The energy requirement was determined and correlated to the different operating parameters, such as transmembrane pressure (ΔP), membrane area, temperature, and initial biomass concentration. A filtration model was developed and showed a strong correlation with experimental data up to 20.0 g of dry cell weight (DCW)/L. The non-optimized filtration system had an energy requirement of 2.23 kWh/m3 with an associated cost of $0.282/kg of microalgae. The investigation into the influence of the operating parameters and scale-up effects showed that the energy requirement could be substantially reduced to 0.90 kWh/m3 and $0.058/kg of microalgae harvested. Maintenance costs associated with cleaning were estimated to be 0.23 kWh or $0.029/batch of microalgae processed. Dependent upon the operating conditions, harvesting may represent 6–45% of the energy embedded in the microalgae with a carbon footprint of 0.74–1.67 kg of CO2/kg of microalgae. Microfiltration was demonstrated to be a feasible microalgae harvesting technology allowing for more than 99% volume reduction. The energy requirement and associated carbon footprint of microalgae harvesting reported here do not forfeit the need for an industrial-scale study; however, the information provided presents a more realistic approximation than the literature reported to date.

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