Cécile Formosa-Dague

Engineering of Biological Systems and Processes, Toulouse

Biophysics of microalgae flotation

Annual meeting: 2018

Fields-Topics: P1 Molecular and Cellular

Type of talk: Fellows Speed Presentation

Biophysics of microalgae flotation


I studied fundamental microbiology and biotechnologies at the university Paul Sabatier of Toulouse, in France. After obtaining my master degree in 2011, I started a PhD, in 2012, at the Laboratoire d’Analyse et d’Architecture des Systèmes (LAAS-CNRS) in Toulouse. During this PhD, I have worked on important issues related to multidrug resistant microorganisms using nanobiotechnologies, more specifically Atomic Force Microscopy. Afterwards, I chose to do a postdoc in Belgium at the Université catholique de Louvain, between 2015 and 2017, in the nanobiophysics field in which I could learn to lead an original research project using a multidisciplinary approach. Indeed, during this postdoc, I had the opportunity to work on biofilm formation by bacterial pathogens, but more interestingly, I could work on my research project with scientists with different scientific backgrounds. These two research experiences led me to develop research interests in biological interfaces and their interactions with their environment or with other interfaces. To address these challenges, I develop multidisciplinary approaches, at the frontier between biology, chemistry and physics.


Biophysics of microalgae flotation

In the context of climate change and increasing energy needs of the world population, the global interest for sustainable sources to produce energy is growing. One promising resource for biofuel production is microalgae, but their industrial use is limited by the lack of efficient harvesting techniques. Flotation represents a promising harvesting technique that consists in transforming air into bubbles through a solid/liquid suspension. Microalgae get attached to the bubbles produced and are carried out and accumulated on the surface, without being altered. However lack of fundamental research aiming at improving this method makes it for the moment not attractive for industrials. This research project aims at better understanding the biophysics of flotation process. Fundamental knowledge, at the single cell and single molecule level will be acquired and further used to improve algae harvesting by flotation. To achieve this goal we will first deconstruct and analyse the cell wall of the model green algae, Chlorella vulgaris, and evaluate each constituent for its adhesion-aggregation potential using optical tweezers (OT). Then bubbles generated by dissolved air flotation (DAF) will be functionalized with the most promising cell wall constituent and their efficiency for harvesting microalgae will be tested thanks to FluidFM technology. This research project will provide new information on the molecular mechanisms underlying microalgae flotation as well as new ways to improve the efficiency of flotation without damaging the cells and their content.

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