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Microalgae

Lead Organisation: College of Engineering, Swansea University


UNDER DEVELOPMENT

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Why are Microalgea Important?

Microalgae are extremely diverse, and so are their uses. They can play an important role in a multitude of fields, some of which have yet to be discovered:

  • Aquaculture - Currently, microalgae constitute the main source of food used in the nutrition of aquatic organisms in captivity or to maintain water quality in the tanks.
  • Food and Feed - Microalgae represent an important source of protein with potential applications in human and livestock nutrition.
  • Waste Water Treatment - They are particularly important in the control of heavy metals in natural or industrially polluted waters as well as nitrogen and phosphorus. Research is also currently being carried out on the use of algae and microalgae in the treatment of farm effluents, reducing the eutrophication of water. Due to their sensitivity to variations, they are also classified as a bio-indicator.
  • Crop Production - Fertilisers and bio-stimulants based on microalgae extracts have been developed, increasing the resistance of crops to frost and pests, as well as stimulating growth, volume, and quality of plant production.
  • High value metabolites - Microalgae allow the biosynthesis and production of a wide range of substances of commercial interest, such as vitamins, pigments, amino acids, polysaccharides, glycerol, enzymes, growth promoters in fermentation industries, waxes, phospholipids and lecithin, essential fatty acids, and prostaglandins. Some species are used in slimming diets and wound treatments; they may have antibacterial, antifungal, antitumour and immune-regulating activity.
  • Biofuels - Microalgae can be used to produce a wide range of fuels such as bioethanol, biodiesel and biomethane, due to their storage of lipids or triglycerides.

Target Audience

Aquaculture, heavy industry and agriculture are the main sectors in Wales where microalgae technology could be applied. For example.

  • Aquaculture companies can grow microalgae using wastewater produced at the fish farm to produce fish feed. The cultivation of these microalgae can also be targeted at the production of high value-added products such as pigments.
  • Heavy industry can use gases emitted into the atmosphere for microalgae cultivation, decreasing the contamination gases in the atmosphere.
  • Farmers can incorporate microalgae cultivation to feed their animals with high value protein, even in the future for the bioremediation of animal waste. In addition, they can use this biomass as a biofertilizers or bio-stimulants for their crops.
  • The brewing or distilling industry can use the CO2 produced in their fermentation tanks to grow microalgae, creating value in their production.
  • Wastewater treatment plants can incorporate microalgae in the tertiary process to recover nitrogen and phosphorus and avoid eutrophication on the waters.
  • Entrepreneurs - This course will encourage the creation of new companies to produce microalgae for different uses for example: cosmetics, medicine, air purifiers, ecological dyes for clothes, reduction of gases in ruminants, production of bio-asphalt, decoration of buildings.

The demand of personnel for microalgae cultivation has grown in recent years, but little training available and this has led to mistakes being repeated across the globe.

Potential Course

The course will show and explain the uses of microalgae as well as their production using the latest technologies developed in this sector. Doing this, we will show students the most basic and at the same time the most complex principles of microalgae production. For this purpose, we will start with a basic introduction, to contextualize the next units. In this way, students with a limited knowledge of biology will also have a basis on which to grow during the course. Once the initial phase has been addressed, we will try to introduce them to the world of cultivation, giving them the keys to success but also the mistakes to avoid. We want them to be able to identify the needs and requirements of each microalgae, and thus be able to reach their production objectives. In this module we will teach them the main tools of each process, having the opportunity to choose which one fits best with the production model they wish to develop. Finally, a visual practice of what the real world of microalgae is like will help them to put into context all that has been learnt in the theory. We want to transmit an applicable knowledge focused on the real work.

Tutors

Tutors Name
Jose Gayo Palaez
Prof Darren Oatley-Radcliff