Technical Briefs

A Preliminary Study of the Effect of Surface Texture on Algae Cell Attachment for a Mechanical-Biological Energy Manufacturing System

[+] Author and Article Information
Jian Cao1

Department of Mechanical Engineering, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL 60208jcao@northwestern.edu

Wenqiao Yuan, Yan Cui

Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS 66506

Z. J. Pei

Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Systems Engineering, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS 66506

Tiffany Davis, Michael Beltran

Department of Mechanical Engineering, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL 60208


Corresponding author.

J. Manuf. Sci. Eng 131(6), 064505 (Dec 03, 2009) (4 pages) doi:10.1115/1.4000562 History: Received July 24, 2009; Revised October 23, 2009; Published December 03, 2009; Online December 03, 2009

A grand vision of an algal biofuel energy manufacturing system is presented here. The proposed system, from manufacturing engineering and system points of view, aims to provide technical solutions to two major challenges that the algal biofuel industry faces, i.e., low productivity and energy intensive harvesting and drying, which result in prohibitively high costs. The proposed idea is to have an integrated “conveyor belt” system floating on the water surface powered by windmills or a hybrid energy source. The conveyor belt is made of corrosion-resistant steel sheets that have microdimple surface features to significantly enhance the attachment of algae cells to the “belt” compared with a surface without microdimple features. The grown algae on the belt will then be mechanically scraped off, collected, dried, and squeezed for oil extraction. This paper addresses one of many fundamental problems in this vision, i.e., whether algae can grow effectively on textured stainless steel surfaces. Through both static and dynamic tests, it was found that the growth of algae on textured surfaces was several times more active than that on a flat sample.

Copyright © 2009 by American Society of Mechanical Engineers
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Figure 7

S. dimorphus grown on two stainless steel surfaces under hydrodynamic forces: (a) a sample with dimple sizes of 250 μm and (b) a sample with dimple sizes of 1 mm and variable dimple depths

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Figure 6

(a) sample formed using incremental forming and (b) three-dimensional image of the top surface of one dimple

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Figure 5

(a) Microscopic photo of cells attached to dimples, 50× magnification and (b) 100× magnification photo

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Figure 4

S. dimorphus grown on (a) as-received stainless steel surface and (b) laser textured stainless steel surface: thick layers of cells attached to the textured surface indicate that microscale surface textures enhance cell attachment

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Figure 3

Sample laser textured surface

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Figure 2

Illustration of a self-sufficient algae farm for energy manufacturing

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Figure 1

Cost analysis of biomass production from three commonly used production methods: tubular photobioreactors, flat panels, and open ponds (10)



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