Drag-reducing polysaccharides from marine microalgae: species productivity and drag reduction effectiveness

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We have conducted a study of the potential use of drag-reducing biopolymers produced by marine microalgae for engineering applications. Several marine microalgae species were tested for their production of drag-reducing polysaccharides in large custom-designed plate bioreactors. Promising species (such as Porphyridium cruentum, Rhodella maculata, Schizochlamydella capsulata and Chlorella stigmatophora) were cultured for periods of time ranging from a few weeks to over 6 months. The basic drag-reducing ability of the polysaccharides was established by comparing their drag reduction effectiveness at various concentrations in water. The algal polysaccharide mass productivity was also measured per unit area of bioreactor's illuminated surface. Finally, an all-inclusive criterion, the volumetric production of drag-reducing water giving a set level of drag reduction was quantified, and led us to a ranking of the tested species in order of productivity relevant to implementation. Some aspects of polysaccharide production by aged cultures were investigated as well. We also quantified the drag-reducing effectiveness of intracellular polysaccharides, and visualized the presence of exopolymer particles in the medium.

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