Harvesting and cell disruption of microalgae

Gerard Pieter 't Lam

Research output: Thesisinternal PhD, WU


Microalgae are a potential feedstock for various products. At the moment, they are already used as feedstock for high-valuable products (e.g. aquaculture and pigments).

Microalgae pre-dominantly consist out of proteins, lipids and carbohydrates. This makes algae an interesting feedstock for various bulk-commodities. To successfully produce bulk-commodities, a multi-product biorefinery should be adopted that aims on production of both bulk- and high value co-products. In the downstream process, however, harvesting- and cell disruption are technological hurdles for cost effective multi-product biorefinery.

Flocculation is considered as a low-cost harvesting process. Flocculating microalgae at high salinities used to be not feasible We demonstrated that marine microalgae can successfully be flocculated and harvested by using cationic polymers.

In the second part of this thesis we studied Pulsed Electric Field (PEF) as potential cheap and non-disruptive technology to open microalgae. PEF-treatment evokes openings/’holes’ in micro-organisms. PEF in combination with a pre-treatment to weaken the cell wall resulted in release of proteins from microalgae at low energy consumption.

Recent advances in technology development learned that harvesting of micro-algae is no longer a bottleneck. Future research and development should focus on cell disruption and mild extraction technologies. Costs for the biorefinery will decrease by process simplification. For that unit operations for cell disruption and extraction need to be integrated.

This project was part of a large public private partnership program AlgaePARC biorefinery (www.AlgaePARC.com). Objective of this program is to develop a more sustainable and economically feasible microalgae production process. For that all biomass components (e.g. proteins, lipids, carbohydrates) should be used at minimal energy requirements and minimal costs while keeping the functionality of the different biomass components. Biorefining of microalgae is very important for the selective separation and use of the different functional biomass components.

Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Wageningen University
  • Wijffels, Rene, Promotor
  • Eppink, Michel, Promotor
  • Vermuë, M.H., Co-promotor
Award date16 Jun 2017
Place of PublicationWageningen
Print ISBNs9789463431736
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • algae
  • harvesting
  • flocculation
  • polymers
  • chlorella vulgaris
  • biorefinery
  • electric field
  • organelles


Dive into the research topics of 'Harvesting and cell disruption of microalgae'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this