Date of Award


Degree Name

MS in Electrical Engineering


Electrical Engineering


Dean Arakaki


With growing interest in alternative fuels, algae lipid harvesting is seen as a possible source of biofuel. Algae species under consideration include Chlorella vulgaris, Chlamydomonas reinhardtii and Dunaliella salina due to lipid contents as high as 30% to 56% of their dry weight (depending on growth conditions) and availability [5], [6]. In order to harvest lipids from algae, the cells must first be lysed.

Lysing is achieved by breaking the algal cell wall or membrane to separate oil from the rest of the algae biomass. Current lysing procedures use enzymes, pressure homogenization, and/or sonication to lyse cells; however, these methods are costly and complicate oil extraction [9], [10].

This project examines a novel method of cell lysis through pulsed electric field (PEF) application that enables cost-effective extraction methods relative to current enzyme and sonication techniques.

A theoretical model for cell membrane potential in the presence of electric field was developed, and PEF chambers were manufactured on microscope slides to enable microscope viewing and cell lysis recording during PEF application. Additionally, larger static chambers were created for testing higher volumes of algal solution. Electric field characteristics, such as pulse width, pulse number and magnitude, sufficient for lysis of Dunaliella salina and Chlorella vulgaris were found.