Selective separation of microalgae cells using inertial microfluidics

Maira S. Syed*, Mehdi Rafeie, Dries Vandamme, Mohsen Asadnia, Rita Henderson, Robert A. Taylor, Majid E. Warkiani

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    73 Citations (Scopus)


    Microalgae represent the most promising new source of biomass for the world's growing demands. However, the biomass productivity and quality is significantly decreased by the presence of bacteria or other invading microalgae species in the cultures. We therefore report a low-cost spiral-microchannel that can effectively separate and purify Tetraselmis suecica (lipid-rich microalgae) cultures from Phaeodactylum tricornutum (invasive diatom). Fluorescent polystyrene-microbeads of 6 μm and 10 μm diameters were first used as surrogate particles to optimize the microchannel design by mimicking the microalgae cell behaviour. Using the optimum flowrate, up to 95% of the P. tricornutum cells were separated from the culture without affecting the cell viability. This study shows, for the first time, the potential of inertial microfluidics to sort microalgae species with minimal size difference. Additionally, this approach can also be applied as a pre-sorting technique for water quality analysis.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)91-99
    Number of pages9
    JournalBioresource Technology
    Publication statusPublished - Mar 2018


    • Tetraselmis suecica
    • Phaeodactylum tricornutum
    • Selective separation
    • Spiral microchannel


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