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Nanoscale Evidence Unravels Microalgae Flocculation Mechanism Induced by Chitosan

Abstract : Microalgae are a promising resource for biofuel production, although their industrial use is limited by the lack of effective harvesting techniques. Flocculation consists in the aggregation and adhesion of cells into flocs that can be more easily removed from water than individual cells. Although it is an efficient harvesting technique, contamination is a major issue as chemical flocculants are often used. An alternative is to use natural biopolymers flocculants such as chitosan. Chitosan is a biobased nontoxic polymer that has been effectively used to harvest Chlorella vulgaris cells at a pH lower than its pKa (6.5). While the reported flocculation mechanism is said to rely on electrostatic interactions between chitosan and the negative cell surface, no molecular evidence has yet confirmed this mechanism. In this study, we performed force spectroscopy atomic force microscopy (AFM) experiments to probe the interactions between C. vulgaris cells and chitosan at the molecular scale to decipher its flocculation mechanism. Our results showed that at pH 6, chitosan interacts with C. vulgaris cell wall through biological interactions rather than electrostatic interactions. These observations were confirmed by comparing the data with cationically modified cellulose nanocrystals, for which the flocculation mechanism, relying on an electrostatic patch mechanism, has already been described for C. vulgaris. Further AFM experiments also showed that a different mechanism was at play at higher pH, based on chitosan precipitation. Thus, this AFM-based approach highlights the complexity of chitosan-induced flocculation mechanisms for C. vulgaris.
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Contributor : Etienne DAGUE Connect in order to contact the contributor
Submitted on : Thursday, November 26, 2020 - 11:06:59 AM
Last modification on : Thursday, June 9, 2022 - 3:43:36 AM
Long-term archiving on: : Saturday, February 27, 2021 - 6:40:03 PM


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Irem Demir, Jonas Blockx, Etienne Dague, Pascal Guiraud, Wim Thielemans, et al.. Nanoscale Evidence Unravels Microalgae Flocculation Mechanism Induced by Chitosan. ACS Applied Bio Materials, ACS Publications, 2020, 3 (12), pp.8446-8459. ⟨10.1021/acsabm.0c00772⟩. ⟨hal-03025212⟩



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