Project title: Developing a harvesting process for algal biomass production
Supervisors: Professor Peter Ralph and Dr Bojan Tamburic
Microalgae are outstanding organisms capable of growing in a wide range of environments and conditions, offering broad opportunities for a commercial biomass utilisation in numerous industries. However, a cost-effective method of large-scale microalgal cultivation has not been developed yet, mainly due to the presence of an expensive harvesting step. The harvesting of the microalgal biomass is energy-intensive as it involves separation of large volumes of growth medium.
In my project, I’m studying the method of attached microalgal growth in the form of a biofilm on a solid substrate. In this case, the cells are naturally concentrated opening a possibility of simple harvesting by scraping. The concept is based on the idea of cultivating the biofilms attached to paddlewheels installed in different locations within a raceway pond, simultaneously promoting mixing of a suspended culture in the pond.
Another promising approach studied in my project is combining valuable microalgal biomass production with wastewater treatment. I am investigating microalgal bioremediation of saline wastewater produced by coal seam gas mining, aquaculture and desalination industries integrated with the biofilm system operation.
Aims and objectives
Aim 1: Design and operation of the microalgal biofilm harvesting system:
- Selecting of the most favourable biofilm substrates;
- Determination of the system operational conditions;
- Assessing biomass productivity and production efficiency of the raceway pond enhanced with the biofilm system.
Aim 2: Microalgal bioremediation of saline wastewater:
- Defining the operational parameters based on the source of the wastewater;
- Determination of wastewater treatment potential and biomass productivity in the raceway pond enhanced with the biofilm system;
- Based on the results obtained, making recommendations for commercialised microalgal biomass production and saline wastewater bioremediation.