Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 26, Issue 26, pp 27396–27406 | Cite as

Efficient microalgae removal from aqueous medium through auto-flocculation: investigating growth-dependent role of organic matter

  • Naim Rashid
  • Manoranjan Nayak
  • William I. Suh
  • Bongsoo LeeEmail author
  • Yong-Keun ChangEmail author
Research Article


This study investigated the growth-dependent role of algal organic matters (AOMs) to achieve high removal efficiency (R.E) of microalgae. The results showed that the microalgae cells produced 96 ± 2% of total AOMs as loose bound AOMSS (LB-AOMs) and 4 ± 1% as cell-bound (CB-AOMs) in exponential phase. In stationary phase, LB-AOMs and CB-AOMs were 46 ± 0.7percentage and 54 ± 0.2 percentage, respectively. The R.Es in exponential and stationary phase were 83 ± 2.6% and 66 ± 1.2%, respectively. It is found that the difference of biomass concentration (between exponential and stationary phase) had no significant impact on the R.E (P > 0.01). Further investigations revealed that LB-AOMs inhibit flocculation in exponential and CB-AOMs in stationary phase; however, CB-AOMs showed stronger inhibition than the LB-AOMs (P < 0.01). The provision of calcium (17 ± 0.9 mg/L) to the culture reduced the AOMs inhibition and improved the R.E from 66 ± 1.2% (in control) to 90 ± 4.2%. An increase in R.E was attributed to the interaction of calcium with AOMs and subsequently acting as a flocculant. The findings of this study can be valuable to improve the performance of auto-flocculation technology, which is mainly limited by the presence of AOMs.

Graphical Abstract


Auto-flocculation Organic matter Microalgae growth Removal efficiency Calcium interaction 


Funding information

This work was supported by the Advanced Biomass R&D Center (ABC) of the Global Frontier Project, funded by the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning (ABC-2010-0029728).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

11356_2019_5904_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (266 kb)
ESM 1 (PDF 266 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Advanced Biomass R&D CenterKorea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST)DaejeonRepublic of Korea
  2. 2.Department of Chemical EngineeringCOMSATS University Islamabad, Lahore CampusLahorePakistan
  3. 3.Department of Microbial and Nano Materials, College of Science and TechnologyMokwon UniversityDaejeonRepublic of Korea

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