Improving electrocoagulation floatation for harvesting microalgae

Andrew Landels, Tracey A. Beacham, Christopher T. Evans, Giorgia Carnovale, Sofia Raikova, Isobel S. Cole, Paul Goddard, Christopher Chuck, Michael J. Allen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Citations (SciVal)


Electro-coagulation floatation (ECF) is a foam-floatation dewatering method that has been shown to be a highly effective, rapid, and scalable separation methodology. In this manuscript, an in-depth analysis of the gas and flocculant levels observed during the process is provided, with microbubbles observed in the 5–80 μm size range at a concentration of 10 2 –10 3 bubbles mL −1 . Electrolysis of microalgae culture was then observed, demonstrating both effective separation using aluminium electrodes (nine microalgal species tested, 1–40 μm size range, motile and non-motile, marine and freshwater), and sterilisation of culture through bleaching with inert titanium electrodes. Atomic force microscopy was used to visualise floc formation in the presence and absence of algae, showing nanoscale structures on the magnitude of 40–400 nm and entrapped microalgal cells. Improvements to aid industrial biotechnology processing were investigated: protein-doping was found to improve foam stability without inducing cell lysis, and an oxalate buffer wash regime was found to dissolve the flocculant whilst producing no observable difference in the final algal lipid or pigment profiles, leaving the cells viable at the end of the process. ECF separated microalgal culture had an algal biomass loading of 13% and as such was ideal for direct down-stream processing through hydrothermal liquefaction. High bio-crude yields were achieved, though this was reduced slightly on addition of the Al(OH) 3 after ECF, with carbon being distributed away to the aqueous and solid residue phases. The amenability and compatibility of ECF to integration with, or replacement of, existing centrifugation and settling processes suggests this process may be of significant interest to the biotechnology industry.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101446
Number of pages16
JournalAlgal Research
Early online date2 Mar 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2019


  • Electro-coagulation floatation
  • Flocculant
  • High speed atomic force microscopy
  • Hydrothermal liquefaction
  • Microalgae
  • Microbubble
  • Separation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agronomy and Crop Science


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