Review of the harvesting and extraction program within the National Alliance for Advanced Biofuels and Bioproducts
Energy-efficient and scalable harvesting and lipid extraction processes must be developed in order for the algal biofuels and bioproducts industry to thrive. The major challenge for harvesting is the handling of large volumes of cultivation water to concentrate low amounts of biomass. For lipid extraction, the major energy and cost drivers are associated with disrupting the algae cell wall and drying the biomass before solvent extraction of the lipids. Here we review the research and development conducted by the Harvesting and Extraction Team during the 3-year National Alliance for Advanced Biofuels and Bioproducts (NAABB) algal consortium project. The harvesting and extraction team investigated five harvesting and three wet extraction technologies at lab bench scale for effectiveness, and conducted a techoeconomic study to evaluate their costs and energy efficiency compared to available baseline technologies. Based on this study, three harvesting technologies were selected for further study at larger scale. The selected harvesting technologies: electrocoagulation, membrane filtration, and ultrasonic harvesting, were evaluated in a field study at minimum scale of 100 L/h. None of the extraction technologies were determined to be ready for scale-up; therefore, an emerging extraction technology (wet solvent extraction) was selected from industry to provide scale-up data and capabilities to produce lipid and lipidextracted materials for the NAABB program. One specialized extraction/adsorption technology was developed that showed promise for recovering high value co-products from lipid extracts. Overall, the NAABB Harvesting and Extraction Team improved the readiness level of several innovative, energy efficient technologies to integrate with algae production processes and captured valuable lessons learned about scale-up challenges.