Crude algal biomass for the generation of thin-film composite solvent-resistant nanofiltration membranes

Cong Yang, Joyce Cavacante, Bárbara Bastos de Freitas, Kyle J. Lauersen, Gyorgy Szekely*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Sustainable development of membrane technologies requires novel source materials for membrane production which are not fossil fuel derived and do not use petroleum solvents for their fabrication. Here, we demonstrate eco-friendly and straightforward manufacturing of thin-film composite (TFC) membranes using crude soluble algal biomass without the need for chemical purification. Both sterilized clean-water and unsterilized wastewater-grown green algal biomasses generated similar results. The complex mixture of polysaccharides and soluble proteins provided reactive groups for crosslinking. The thickness of the selective layer made of algal biomass ranged from 13 to 94 nm. The algae-based TFC membranes exhibited robust stability in long-term tests performed in a continuous crossflow filtration system for 7 days. The sustainability and economic efficiency of our algal TFC membranes were compared to the state-of-the-art membrane fabrication and demonstrate, for the first time, that crude biomass, without excessive purification of bio-monomers or -polymers, can be successfully upcycled into membrane separation materials. The results provide a novel venue for conversion of algal biomasses that may not be suited for other consumer-use avenues like those produced from genetically modified strains or in wastewaters, into a useful material.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number144153
JournalChemical Engineering Journal
StatePublished - Aug 15 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Fig. 1 and the graphical abstract were created by Ana Bigio at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST). The author thanks Martin Gede and Rifan Hardian for useful discussions and advice. The authors are grateful to Prof. Pei-Ying Hong and Julie Sanchez Medina for supplying AnMBR effluent. The research reported in this publication was supported by baseline funding awarded to KJL and GS from KAUST.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Elsevier B.V.


  • Algae
  • Biomass
  • Green solvent
  • Sustainability
  • Thin-film composite
  • Upcycling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • General Chemical Engineering
  • Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering


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