OPEN Scientific reports | 20 Jan 2017
B Estime, D Ren and R Sureshkumar
Microalgae represent a promising source of renewable biomass for the production of biofuels and valuable chemicals. However, energy efficient cultivation and harvesting technologies are necessary to improve economic viability. A Tris-Acetate-Phosphate-Pluronic (TAPP) medium that undergoes a thermoreversible sol-gel transition is developed to efficiently culture and harvest microalgae without affecting the productivity as compared to that in traditional culture in a well-mixed suspension. After seeding microalgae in the TAPP medium in a solution phase at 15 °C, the temperature is increased by 7 °C to induce gelation. Within the gel, microalgae are observed to grow in large clusters rather than as isolated cells. The settling velocity of the microalgal clusters is approximately ten times larger than that of individual cells cultured in typical solution media. Such clusters are easily harvested gravimetrically by decreasing the temperature to bring the medium to a solution phase.
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