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Microalgal Technologies - Progress Towards a Circular Economy

Microalgal Technologies - Progress Towards a Circular Economy

Release Date: Each May


Lead Organisation: College of Engineering, Swansea University


Microalgal Technologies workshop - 13 July 2022, book your place here

 Podcast discussing the potential of microalgae

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:

  • Food & Feed - Microalgae represent an important source of protein as well as essential nutrients with potential applications in human and livestock nutrition
  • Wastewater Treatment - They are particularly important in the control of heavy metals in natural or industrially polluted waters as well as nitrogen and phosphorus. Microalgae are also used in the treatment of farm effluents, reducing the eutrophication of waters. In addition, 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 in the last years, increasing the resistance of crops to stress 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, phenolic compounds, phospholipids essential fatty acids, or prostaglandins. Some species are used in slimming diets and wound treatments as they may have antibacterial, antifungal, antitumour and immune-regulating activities. 
  • Aquaculture - Microalgae constitute the main source of food used in the nutrition of aquatic organisms in captivity and also serve to maintain water quality in the tank
  • 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.
  • Environment - Microalgae are being used in the bioabsorption of CO2 gases from combustion in different industries to reduce the pollution and improve the air quality.

Target Audience 

This technology can be applied to a multitude of industries, some examples are: 

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The brewing or distilling industry can use the CO2 produced in their fermentation tanks to grow microalgae, creating value in their production.
  • Heavy industry can use gases (CO2) emitted into the atmosphere for microalgae cultivation, decreasing the contamination gases in the atmosphere.
  • Wastewater treatment plants can incorporate microalgae in the tertiary process to recover nitrogen and phosphorus (or emerging contaminants) 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.

Course

This applied module will demonstrate and explain the uses of microalgae and provide a detailed look at their production. The basic biology and environmental conditions will be introduced to provide context so that students with a limited knowledge of biology will have a basis on which to build during the course. Students will develop a deeper understanding of microalgal cultivation techniques and potential pitfalls to avoid. A range of species will be studied in terms of optimal growing conditions for specific outcomes. We will explore the tools, machines, and systems appropriate to each process of cultivation focusing on the latest technology available, enabling students 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.

Tutors

Tutors Name
Jose Gayo Palaez
Prof Darren Oatley-Radcliffe