Bare iron oxide nanoparticles for magnetic harvesting of microalgae: From interaction behavior to process realization

Paula Fraga-García, Peter Kubbutat, Markus Brammen, Sebastian Schwaminger, Sonja Berensmeier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

64 Scopus citations


Microalgae continue to gain in importance as a bioresource, while their harvesting remains a major challenge at the moment. This study presents findings on microalgae separation using low-cost, easy-to-process bare iron oxide nanoparticles with the additional contribution of the upscaling demonstration of this simple, adhesion-based process. The high affinity of the cell wall for the inorganic surface enables harvesting efficiencies greater than 95% for Scenedesmus ovalternus and Chlorella vulgaris. Successful separation is possible in a broad range of environmental conditions and primarily depends on the nanoparticle-to-microalgae mass ratio, whereas the effect of pH and ionic strength are less significant when the mass ratio is chosen properly. The weakening of ionic concentration profiles at the interphase due to the successive addition of deionized water leads the microalgae to detach from the nanoparticles. The process works efficiently at the liter scale, enabling complete separation of the microalgae from their medium and the separate recovery of all materials (algae, salts, and nanoparticles). The current lack of profitable harvesting processes for microalgae demands innovative approaches to encourage further development. This application of magnetic nanoparticles is an example of the prospects that nanobiotechnology offers for biomass exploitation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number292
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2018


  • Adhesion
  • Adsorption
  • Bare iron oxides
  • Electrostatic interaction
  • Harvesting
  • Magnetic nanoparticles
  • Magnetic separation
  • Microalgae
  • Recovery efficiency
  • Scale-up


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