A research opportunity exists for undergraduate and higher degree research student in science and engineering to investigate the use of advanced nanomaterials for microalgae harvesting and processing at UNSW's School of Chemical Engineering.
Microalgae are fast growing, photosynthetic microorganisms that can convert light and carbon dioxide into a range of unique products such as next generation biofuels, nutraceuticals, organic pigments and high value biomolecules with minimal nutrient requirements.
Algal technologies is attractive from several standpoints. Algae can be grown with minimal impact on fresh water resources, and using land and water sources that are not suitable for traditional agriculture. There is also growing recognition that algal systems are very effective in capturing and converting carbon dioxide into biomass, yielding between 10 to 100 times more fuel per unit area when compared to second-generation biofuel crops. Moreover, the biomass is easily converted into liquid fuels that are compatible with conventional petroleum-based energy infrastructure.
Despite its many advantages, large volume production and commercial viability of algal products are currently limited by the high cost of harvesting, extraction and purification. Step-changes in system design and process intensification are therefore essential in realising the full potential of algal technologies. This project focus on the design a multi-functional separator-extractor unit that can capture and process microalgae cells.