Gravity settler was integrated into an algal membrane photobioreactor (MPBR) for in situ biomass concentration and harvesting of Graesiella emersonii. By continuous circulation of suspended biomass between MPBR and settler, biomass was sedimented in the settler and harvested. MPBR-Settler operations at different recirculation rates (0.15-2.4 L/d) and settler volumes (250-1000 mL) affected both suspended (0.4-3.4 g/L) and settled (16.1-31.1 g/L) biomass concentrations. Maximum biomass productivity of 0.26 ± 0.06 g/L/d was achieved in the 1000 mL settler operating at 0.6 L/d recirculation rate, which also yielded 9-131 times concentrated biomass (31.1 g/L) compared to the baseline MPBR (0.2-3.4 g/L). This novel design also facilitated MPBR operation at low solids retention times (6-8 d) without incurring large outflow of unfiltered effluent, while alleviating light limitation via biomass dilution. These results demonstrated that the MPBR-Settler system can provide an excellent way to mitigate light limitation, enhance biomass productivity, and simplify biomass harvesting.
Keywords: Light limitation; Membrane photobioreactor; Microalgae harvesting; Settler; Wastewater treatment.
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