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Flocculation of Chlorella vulgaris induced by high pH: role of magnesium and calcium and practical implications.

Bioresource technology (2011-12-21)
Dries Vandamme, Imogen Foubert, Ilse Fraeye, Boudewijn Meesschaert, Koenraad Muylaert
ABSTRACT

Microalgae hold great potential as a feedstock for biofuels or bulk protein or treatment of wastewater or flue gas. Realising these applications will require the development of a cost-efficient harvesting technology. Here, we explore the potential of flocculation induced by high pH for harvesting Chlorella vulgaris. Our results demonstrate that flocculation can be induced by increasing medium pH to 11. Although both calcium and magnesium precipitated when pH was increased, only magnesium (≥0.15 mM) proved to be essential to induce flocculation. The costs of four different bases (sodium hydroxide, potassium hydroxide, calcium hydroxide, magnesium hydroxide and sodium carbonate) were calculated and evaluated and the use of lime appeared to be the most cost-efficient. Flocculation induced by high pH is therefore a potentially useful method to preconcentrate freshwater microalgal biomass during harvesting.

MATERIALS
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