Throughout the sphere of industry, there is a concerted effort to shift from sourcing energy from fossil fuels to more eco-friendly, renewable options. Consequently, numerous companies are exploring the viability of algae harvesting as a biofuel source. Thus, in order to carry out these processes, manufacturers require one key piece of equipment: centrifuges.
Read on to explore the intricacies of algae harvesting and how companies use centrifuges for algae harvesting to execute the process.
WHAT IS ALGAE HARVESTING?
Algae harvesting is the process of sourcing biofuels from algae. While the term may sound new and niche, algae harvesting has been occurring since the 1940s. However, the ever-increasing need for industries to find new and more environmentally friendly ways to fuel operations has brought the topic of biofuels back to the fore. Consequently, there is more push to enhance the viability of algae harvesting.
The primary factor driving the focus on biofuel exploration is the need to lower production costs, thus facilitating subsequent expansion. However, the primary drawback of this approach is that biofuel production using algae remains a relatively costly endeavour. On the other hand, this state is constantly changing; therefore, it may only be a matter of time before experts develop cheaper extraction methods.
There are numerous algae harvesting methods. The most common entail the use of algal turf scrubber (ATF) systems or open ponds. In both instances, the manufacturer submerges a geomembrane material surface in shallow water to facilitate algae cultivation. In turn, as the algae bloom, they absorb light which they transform into biomass. When a company harvests this resultant biomass, it draws various compounds, including ethanol, butanol and methane.
WHERE DOES A CENTRIFUGE COME IN?
Harvesting involves removing the algae from the water for processing. However, algae retain a high water composition at this stage that requires elimination before fuel production can occur. So, companies use centrifuges to do so.
The process involves:
A centrifuge spins the algae cells towards the device’s bowl wall. At the same time, water gets separated and removed.
Purpose-built algae harvesting centrifuges are capable of carrying these processes out continuously. Therefore, the appliance constantly removes any water while automatically ejecting the ‘dried’ algae.
WHAT TYPES OF CENTRIFUGES ARE USED?
The centrifuge type you use to process algae harvesting depends on your operation’s scale. Large scale harvesting operations call for the use of industrial flow-through centrifuges. These models facilitate continuous operation. In addition, they have high g-forces (between 7,000 and 12,000 g’s), making industrial centrifuges very effective. So, not only is the process quick and continuous, but it can also isolate even the smallest algae cells, thus boosting yield capabilities.
Conversely, small scale centrifuges are adequate for smaller operations. They use only 1,000 to 2,000 g’s during the process. Hence their low flow rate classification. These small centrifuges are prevalently used in labs.
There are also mid-range centrifuges (with up to 3000 g’s) available in other cases, providing medium flow rate processing. These models can be very lightweight and affordable. Moreover, some may come with self-cleaning features that automatically eject the biofuel, thus eliminating the need to interrupt the machine’s operation.
Suppose your company is exploring the possibilities of biofuel use and would like to explore the benefits of algae harvesting as a source. In that case, you must make certain to purchase only the best centrifuge available.