Microalgae are considered as one of the most promising alternatives for the integrated use of agro-industrial water residues and the production of metabolites of high industrial interest. This is due to algae can grow on wastewater which in turn can reduce the emission of nutrients to rivers and lakes. However, the greatest scientific-technological barrier is the concentration and separation of the biomass produced. There are several processes used at different levels (from laboratory to industrial scale) such as flocculation, centrifugation, flotation, etc. These can be very expensive or can (possibly) contaminate the biomass. Unlike the previous ones, electroflotation has been proposed as a cost-efficient method, nevertheless its final efficiency will depend heavily on the type of alga and culture medium. Taking into account the above, the present project aims to design an electroflotation system for the concentration and harvest of microalgae biomass.
The effect of several factors (pH, time, voltage and distance between the electrodes) and for types of materials (Copper, Aluminium, Iron and Steel) on biomass recovery efficiency from a culture of Chlorella vulgaris UTEX 1803 was evaluated by the implementation of a Design of experiments (43 non-factorial design)using STATISTICA 7.0.
Results show that, the materials with higher concentration efficiency were cooper and aluminium with 40 and 80% respectively, and the most relevant factors were distance between electrodes (1-2 cm), time (>20 min) and Voltage (>15V). In order to increase the efficiency of the overall process a new 43 experimental factorialdesign was proposed using as factors distance between electrodes, time, voltage and agitation. Results show that agitation positively affects the total efficiency until reaching a total concentration of the biomass (100%).
It was found that a voltage close to 50V and a time greater than 25 min positively affect the final efficiency of the copper and aluminium electrodes, however aluminium has the highest efficiency (> 95%) compared to copper (<85%).