Research on Microalgae.

Self-funded R&D

Project Description

Microalgae researh is framed in IDENER’s medium-term strategic plan. Specifically, we aim to develop improved microalgae growth processes in terms of cost, product quality and process efficiency, by extensive application of optimization techniques both for design and operation.

Our interest in this area is aligned with the fact that microalgal biotechnology is a hot research topic which attracts a number of  heterogeneous research groups (chemistry, biology, engineering, etc.) throughout the world. Moreover, commercial applications for microalgae are vast and diverse. As a matter of fact, the microalgal biomass market produces about 5.000 tonnes of dry matter per year and generates a turnover of more than 1.000 million EUR annually. Microalgal product companies have recently developed numerous new technical systems for biomass production and have diversified their products, giving a clear idea of just how quickly these markets evolve.

As for microalgae commercial applications, they can be used to enhance the nutritional value of food and animal feed owing to their chemical composition, play a crucial role in aquaculture and may be incorporated into cosmetics. Additionally, they are cultivated as a source of highly valuable molecules such as polyunsaturated fatty acids like DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid) and pigments like carotenoids (β-carotene, astaxanthin and, of lesser importance, lutein, zeaxanthin, lycopene and bixin, among others).

Perhaps most importantly, microalgae can act as a source of next-generation biofuels. Currently, significant research effort is being focused on developing a viable algae-to-biofuels process around the world, but the major challenge remains to be able to produce such algal biofuels at the scale required and to do this economically. The scale of production for significant quantities of algae-derived fuel is extremely large, thus high annual lipid productivity is the first essential step in producing biofuels from algae, but to achieve an economic process all steps in the production process from algal culture to actual fuel production must be efficient at scale and optimized.

Our Approach

Mass culture of microalgae for valuable products production is not an engineering or biological challenge, but is a combination of both. Our design and optimization approach (seamlessly integrating mathematical modelling, MDO, control and software engineering) being a differentiating factor from other companies within the sector, we aim to improve existing mass cultures suited for various commercial applications by the development of cost-efficient microalgae-based businesses. To do so, we are conducting the research activities listed below, which we expect will result in a further IDENER’s spin-off company aimed to product commercialization.

  • Construct laboratory facilities aimed to comprehensive testing and experimentation.
  • Build a software infrastructure so as to allow extensive simulation and optimization of the involved processes.
  • Translate research activities into lab-scale production systems.
  • Optimize product design with potential customers feedback.
  • Develop credible financial and bussiness plans.
  • Design, finance, construct, operate and commercially exploit a proof-of-concept plant for scale up and replication.

Project Details

  • Client IDENER (internal R&D project)
  • Date 29 September, 2013
  • Tags Biotechnology, Control Engineering, Modeling and Simulation, Multidisciplinary Design Optimization, Private, Software Engineering
  • Client IDENER (internal R&D project)
  • Start date March, 2011
  • End date Ongoing
Back to Top