Abstract

Flocculation is a common technique to harvest microalgae, where the negatively charged algal cells coalesce together to form larger flocs that settle under gravity. Although several inorganic flocculants have been applied for algal biomass recovery, the dosage varies depending on the algal strain-specific features. Thus, the selection of inorganic coagulant that can be applied at a low dosage for achieving the maximal biomass recovery under normal physiological conditions is necessary. The present study analyses the influence of different inorganic flocculants like ferric chloride (FeCl3), alum, calcium hydroxide, ferrous sulphate and copper sulphate on the biomass removal efficiency of a mixed microalgal consortium isolated from the open ponds of the National Institute of Technology Rourkela and further enriched with diluted human urine. Flocculation experiments were carried out with varying coagulant dosages, pH between 7.5 and 7.8, and 0.5 g L−1 algal concentration. The results revealed that FeCl3 at the dosage of 0.05 g L−1 and KAl(SO4)2 with the dosage of 0.04 g L−1 could be utilized to achieve the biomass recovery efficiency of 99.5% and 97.9%, respectively, within a duration of 5 min. An economic evaluation of the harvesting process showed KAl(SO4)2 to be the cheapest coagulant that could be feasibly used to recover algae at a large scale.

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