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Development of a foam flotation system for harvesting microalgae biomass

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Thea Ekins-Coward, Dr Jonathan Lee, Dr Gary Caldwell

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Abstract

The lack of efficient and cost-effective technologies for harvesting bulk quantities of microalgae biomass is a major obstacle to commercialisation of algae-derived biofuels. This article demonstrates the efficacy of a foam harvester that combines dispersed air flotation with foam fractionation to allow harvesting, concentration, and physical separation of particles in suspension. Fractional factorial experiments using polystyrene latex beads were combined with trials using microalgae to determine the relative importance of key design and operational variables (air flow rate, batch run time, foam column height, surfactant concentration, and surfactant type) on the particle concentration factor. The model revealed that highest concentration factors were gained using the following variables and variable interactions: cationic cetyl trimethylammonium bromide (CTAB), lower surfactant concentrations, and CTAB combined with high column heights. Variables that increased foam residence time produced the greatest concentration factors. Analyses of the harvest economics revealed that foam flotation consumes only 0.015 kWh/m3 providing an advantageous cost – benefit relationship, and outcompeting many commonly used bulk harvesting technologies.


Publication metadata

Author(s): Coward T, Lee JGM, Caldwell GS

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Algal Research

Year: 2013

Volume: 2

Issue: 2

Pages: 135-144

Print publication date: 01/03/2013

Online publication date: 20/01/2013

ISSN (print): 2211-9264

Publisher: Elsevier BV

URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.algal.2012.12.001

DOI: 10.1016/j.algal.2012.12.001


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