Development of a novel membrane bioreactor for cost-effective wastewater treatment and microalgae harvesting

Larronde-Larretche, Mathieu (2018) Development of a novel membrane bioreactor for cost-effective wastewater treatment and microalgae harvesting. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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The rapid depletion of fossil fuels has raised increasing attention worldwide, and initiated intensive research for sustainable alternatives for energy production. Among these, biodiesel from microalgae has appeared as one of the most promising candidate due to their ability to accumulate large amount of lipids. Indeed, microalgae can achieve a productivity up to 25 higher than other crop sources without need of cultivatable soil, therefore without competing with food production. In the meantime, microalgae have also shown promising results for the treatment of various kind of wastewaters. However, the cultivation of microalgae for energy production suffers from the large costs of harvesting and dewatering of biomass, prior to lipid extraction and biofuel production, which accounts for up to 50% of operating costs. Therefore, the search for cost-effective methods of harvesting and dewatering of microalgae biomass has become necessary to optimize their usage. This study investigates forward osmosis (FO) for the dewatering of microalgae biomass and its implementation within a photobioreactor used for wastewater treatment. FO is a cost-effective filtration process based on the differences of osmotic pressure across a semi-permeable membrane. The use of FO for microalgae dewatering is of high interest, given the high fouling ability of microalgae biomass and the low fouling promises of FO.
First, the feasibility of using FO for microalgae dewatering was assessed, focusing on better understanding the fouling mechanisms involved. The filtration performances have been investigated under various operating parameters. It has been found that when Ca2+-containing draw solutions were used, microalgae responded to the back diffusion of calcium ions by an extensive excretion of carbohydrates, accelerating the formation of algal flocs, thus enhancing the rate and extent of flux decline and reducing the algae dewatering efficiency. However, most of the fouling was reversible by simple hydraulic flushing. In addition, substantial adsorption of algal biomass was observed on the feed spacer. Also, Scenedesmus obliquus and Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, with fructose and abundant glucose and mannose in its cell wall, showed strong response to the back diffusion of calcium ions which encouraged S. obliquus to produce more extracellular carbohydrates and formed a stable gel network between algal biomass and extracellular carbohydrates, leading to algae aggregation and severe loss in both water flux and algae biomass during FO dewatering with Ca2+-containing draw solution. Among the species investigated, Chlorella vulgaris without fructose was the most suitable microalgae species to be dewatered by FO with a high algae recovery and negligible flux decline regardless of which draw solution was applied. These findings improve mechanical understanding of FO membrane fouling by microalgae; have significant implications for the algae species selection; and are critical for the development and optimization of FO dewatering processes.
Finally, the implementation of FO dewatering with continuous microalgae biomass production and synthetic wastewater treatment was investigated. Two systems (External FO ; Immersed FO) have been studied and compared in order to provide insights on the advantages and disadvantages of each system. Constant parameters have been set identical for both systems: operation time; photobioreactor; hydraulic retention time; biomass production; FO permeate volume. The results reveals that the wastewater treatment efficiency (nutrients removal), as well as the production of biomass were greater with the immersed system due to a greater microalgae growth. However, these may not be sustainable in a long term operation of the immersed system. The external FO system was found better in terms of salinity build-up and FO dewatering performances. Overall, an external FO dewatering is recommended due to its better flexibility and sustainability.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Microalgae, forward osmosis, water treatment, filtration, photobioreactor.
Subjects: Q Science > QC Physics
Q Science > QD Chemistry
T Technology > TD Environmental technology. Sanitary engineering
Colleges/Schools: College of Science and Engineering > School of Engineering > Infrastructure and Environment
Supervisor's Name: Jin, Dr. Xue
Date of Award: 2018
Depositing User: Mathieu Larronde-Larretche
Unique ID: glathesis:2018-30805
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 20 Sep 2018 10:24
Last Modified: 20 Nov 2018 08:37
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