Rheology of algae slurries

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Bolhouse, Angel Michele

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This thesis reports the rheological properties of algae slurries as a function of cell concentration for three microalgae species: Nannochloris sp.,Chlorella vulgaris, and Phaeodactylum tricornutum. Rheological properties ofalgae slurries have a direct impact on the agitation and pumping power requirements as well as process design for producing algal biofuels. This study measures the rheological properties of eight diff erent concentrations of each species ranging from 0.5 to 80 kg dry biomass/m³. Strain-controlled steady rate sweep tests were performed for each sample with an ARES-TA rheometer using a double wall couette cup and bob attachment. Shear rates ranged from 5 - 270 s⁻¹, corresponding to typical expected conditions. The results showed that Nannochloris sp. slurry behaved as a Newtonian fluid for concentrations up to 20 kg/m³. Samples with concentrations above 40 kg/m³ behaved as a shear thinning non-Newtonian fluid. The effective viscosity increased with increased biomass concentration for a maximum value of 3.3x10⁻³ Pa-s. Similarly, C. vulgaris slurry behaved as a Newtonian fluid with concentrations of up to 40 kg/m³, above which it displayed a shear thinning non-Newtonianf behavior and a maximum eff ective viscosity of 3.5x10⁻² Pa-s. On the other hand, P. tricornutum slurry demonstrated solely Newtonian fluid behavior, with the dynamic viscosity increasing with increasing biomass concentration for a maximum value of 3.2x10⁻³ Pa-s. The maximum observed e ffective viscosity occurred at a concentration of 80 kg/m³ for all three species. Moreover, an energy analysis was performed where a non-dimensional bioenergy transport e ffectiveness was de termined as the ratio of the energy content of the transported algae biomass to the sum of the required pumping power and the harvesting power. The results show that the increase in major losses due to increase in viscosity was overcompensated by the increase in the transported biomass energy. Also, cultivating a more concentrated slurry requires less dewatering power and is the preferred option. The largest bioenergy transport eff ectiveness was observed for the slurries with the largest initial dry biomass concentrations. Finally, the relative viscosity of algae slurries was modeled using a Kelvin-Voit based model for dilute and concentrated viscoelastic par- ticle suspensions. The model, which depends primarily on the packing factor of the algae species, agrees with the measured viscosity with an average error of 18%, while the concentrated particle suspension model was slightly more accurate than the dilute suspension model.



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