Application of Various Immobilization Techniques for Algal Bioprocesses

Ela Eroglu, Steven M. Smith and Colin L. Raston

Abstract Immobilized cells entrapped within a polymer matrix or attached onto the surface of a solid support have advantages over their free-cell counterpart, with easier harvesting of the biomass, enhanced wastewater treatment, and enriched bioproduct generation. Immobilized microalgae have been used for a diverse number of bio­processes including gaining access to high-value products (biohydrogen, biodiesel, and photopigments), removal of nutrients (nitrate, phosphate, and ammonium ions), heavy metal ion removal, biosensors, and stock culture management. Wastewater treatment processes appear to be one of the most promising applications for immo­bilized microalgae, which mostly involve heavy metal and nutrient removal from liquid effluents. This chapter outlines the current applications of immobilized mic­roalgae with an emphasis on alternative immobilization approaches. Advances in immobilization processes and possible research directions are also highlighted.

2.1 Introduction

Algal bioprocesses are advantageous in integrating wastewater treatment processes with valuable biomass production. Algal biomass can be further exploited for various purposes such as biofuel generation in the form of biodiesel, biohydrogen, or biogas;

E. Eroglu (H) • S. M. Smith

School of Chemistry and Biochemistry, The University of Western Australia, Crawley,

WA 6009, Australia e-mail: elaeroglu@gmail. com

E. Eroglu • S. M. Smith

ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology, The University of Western Australia, Crawley, WA 6009, Australia

C. L. Raston

Centre for NanoScale Science and Technology, School of Chemical and Physical Sciences, Flinders University, Bedford Park, SA 5042, Australia

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

N. R. Moheimani et al. (eds.), Biomass and Biofuels from Microalgae,

Biofuel and Biorefinery Technologies 2, DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-16640-7_2 food additives; slow-release fertilizers or soil conditioners; cosmetics; pharmaceu­ticals; and several other valuable chemicals (Johnson and An 1991; Mallick 2002; Mulbry et al. 2005). Microalgal cells have several other advantages in not requiring many resources to generate their biomass, providing an economical operation at lower costs, with the dissolved oxygen released by the algae being useful to elevate the oxygen levels of water effluents, and can be utilized for the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions using CO2 for their biomass and/or energy production.

Harvesting and dewatering of algal biomass from its liquid environment is one of the major challenges of algal bioprocesses. Several studies have focused on harvesting of microalgae using a wide range of technologies from sand filtration to high-speed centrifugation (Mallick 2002; Oswald 1988). Some of the most recent technologies for algal dewatering are further discussed in Chaps. 12, 13, and 14 of this book. Immobilization of algal cells has been proposed mainly to overcome the burdens of difficult harvesting and dewatering stages, in addition to providing the retention of the high-value-added algal biomass for further processes (de la Noue and de Pauw 1988; Mallick 2002).

Immobilization of various cells in either polymeric or biopolymeric matrices has several advantages over their free-cell counterparts, since immobilized cells occupy less space, are easier to handle, and can be used repeatedly for product generation (Mallick 2002). Immobilization of cells has also been proposed to increase the biosorption capacity and bioactivity of the biomass (Akhtar et al. 2004; de-Bashan and Bashan 2010). It allows bioprocesses with higher cell densities and also easy harvesting of biomass from its liquid environment (Mallick 2002). Immobilization processes have several other advantages as being resistant to harsh environments such as salinity, metal toxicity, and pH; protecting the aging cultures against the harmful effects of photoinhibition; yielding higher biomass concentrations; recov­ering the cells in a less-destructive way; and enhancing the cost-effectiveness of the process by reusing the regenerated biomass (Bailliez et al. 1986; Hall-Stoodley et al. 2004; Liu et al. 2009). Given the use of large-scale bioreactors represents a significant challenge associated with algal biomass recovery, immobilization sys­tems are becoming attractive alternatives for scale-up processing (Christenson and Sims 2011; Hoffmann 1998).

Various immobilization processes are in use, such as adsorption, confinement in liquid-liquid emulsions, capturing with semipermeable membranes, covalent cou­pling, and entrapment within polymers (de-Bashan and Bashan 2010; Mallick

2002) . Among others, the most common immobilization processes are the entrap­ment of the cells within polymeric matrices and self-adhesive attachment of cells onto the surfaces of solid-supports (Godlewska-Zylkiewicz 2003). Both synthetic and natural polymers can be applied as the immobilization matrix (de-Bashan and Bashan 2010).

Important criteria for successful entrapment are to set the algal cells free within their partition, while pores inside the gel matrix allow the diffusion of substrates and the metabolic products toward and from the cells (Mallick 2002). Nevertheless, entrapment systems still hold some drawbacks in reducing the mass transfer kinetics of the uptake of metal ions (Aksu et al. 2002). However, these can be avoided by careful choice of the immobilization method and the nature of the matrix, which will be further discussed in detail.

Key applications suggested for immobilized algal cells include removal of nutrients from aqueous solutions (Chevalier and de la Notie 1985), biodiesel pro­duction (Bailliez et al. 1985; Li et al. 2007), biosorption of heavy metals from wastewaters (de-Bashan and Bashan 2010), photoproduction of hydrogen and photopigments (Bailliez et al. 1986; Laurinavichene et al. 2008), providing an alternative technique to the common cryopreservation processes (Chen 2001; Faafeng et al. 1994; Hertzberg and Jensen 1989), and also toxicity testing (Boze­man et al. 1989). These processes will also be discussed in detail in the following sections of this review article.

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