Cost- and Energy-Efficient Device for De-watering Microalgae Using Stimuli-Sensitive Hydrogels


Project ID: D2016-01

IP Status: US Patent 10,077,422

Invention Description: Currently, a major hurdle for commercial-scale production of fuels and other products from microalgae is recovering algal biomass from growth media with minimal cost and energy input. When cultivated in open raceway ponds, microalgae concentrations are very low – typically 0.1% (w/w). Researchers at The University of Toledo have developed a device and method to dewater and harvest these dilute cultures efficiently and economically.

Applications: Dewatering microalgae for use in fuels, food additives, cosmetics and other applications.

Novelty: Low-energy technology for harvesting microalgae through the use of stimuli-sensitive hydrogels. The harvesting device allows for efficient particle/cell separation and maintenance of gel integrity for prolonged use.

Value proposition:

•       Microalgae concentrations can be increased to >100 g/L using a multi-stage approach.

•       Scalable process allows for continuous operation.

•       Microgels may be reused multiple cycles without being crushed or ruptured.

•       Allows for recycling of growth media, water and unutilized water-soluble nutrients – important for environmental sustainability of microalgae production.

•       Simple device uses less energy consumption and lower capital costs than conventional centrifuges.

•       Stimuli may include: temperature-sensitive, pH-sensitive, light-sensitive, electric field-sensitive, ion-sensitive, pressure-sensitive, and molecule-sensitive hydrogels.

•       Gentle method prevents cell lysis during the process. Cells remain viable and healthy after harvesting.

•       Algae dewatering technology is insensitive to the microalgae species being harvested and does not rely on cell properties such as surface charge or specific gravity of the cells.


Patent Information:
For Information, Contact:
Katherine Pollard
Licensing Associate
The University of Toledo
Sridhar Viamajala
Sasidhar Varanasi
Agasteswar Vadlamani
Xiaofei Zhao