Swedish Algae Factory has been cultivating a particular group of microalgae, called diatoms, and investigating their potential uses.
Diatoms are a huge group of photosynthetic microalgae that are found in almost every aquatic environment on the planet. With thousands of species, diatoms are amongst the most abundant and ecologically important microscopic organisms. They are responsible for approximately 20% of oxygen generation through photosynthesis, and can be recognised by their unique and beautifully elaborate exterior shells that contain silica.
The Swedish Algae Factory have developed a protocol for production of nanomaterials made of silica from diatoms. The extracted materials have been tested on solar panels. The naturally light trapping silica has been shown to improve the efficiency of dye – sensitised solar panels (DSSC) by as much as 60%: click here for details of their work.
The Use of Nanotechnology in Solar Energy
Oman Centre, Swedish Algae Factory partner for diatoms
Plastics are a major part of modern everyday life, recent figures estimate around 3.7 million tonnes of plastic are used per year in the UK (Plastics Europe). A proportion of the plastic is recycled after use; however, many plastic products are used once then thrown away, particularly plastic packaging. This discarded plastic does not degrade and is making its way into the oceans and waterways all over the world.
In efforts to reduce the impact of plastic pollution, biodegradable plastic has been developed, which has a shorter lifespan than conventional plastic. This type of plastic is usually made from fossil fuel feedstocks with chemical additives to enhance the degradation process. There are specific conditions to the breakdown of these plastics; high temperature and UV light; and left over products can themselves be harmful to the environment. A potential alternative is using plant based polymers to make plastics, they produce bioplastics. The difference being that bioplastics are compostable and decay into natural materials that can combine with the soil. Some of the plants used for the bioplastics are also food crops, like corn or maize, creating competition between food and plastic. Companies have been looking elsewhere for sources of materials to make plastic and one of the possibilities is algae.
Over the last few years a number of manufacturers (e.g. Solaplast; Cereplast; Bloom) and collaborative groups (e.g. SPLASH ) have been investigating and developing algal polymers. A new generation of plastic algal feedstocks is available, and being used in a variety of renewable plastic resins suitable for numerous applications.
For further developments and news on algal bioplastics and their uses – follow the links below:
Vivobarefoot Sports shoes: https://www.news18.com/news/sports/your-next-shoe-could-be-made-from-algae-1447973.html and https://www.wired.com/story/slip-into-earth-friendly-running-shoes-made-of-algae/
Journal of the North Atlantic and Arctic –https://jonaa.org/content/2018/01/19/algaibioplastics
Science Daily: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130527100524.htm
Xanthella is continuing to strengthen the expertise in the ENBIO project with the recruitment of a new product engineer, Dr Laurence Evans. His role will be to oversee the design and deployment of the Pandora PBR™ array at the facility on Ardnamurchan.
Laurence is a recent PhD graduate from Heriot-Watt University, with a keen interest in microalgae and their potential in bio-based industries. His PhD examined the application of microalgae in the treatment of municipal wastewater. The aim was to establish a low-cost treatment process compared to current conventional wastewater treatment. The work focused on enhancing the ability of the microalgae to reduce nitrogenous and phosphorus concentrations through environmental and biochemical factors. Before his PhD, Laurence had completed his undergraduate degree in biochemistry at the University of Bath. During his degree, he undertook two internships, one at University College London and the second at St. Judes research hospital, located in Tennessee, USA.
As product engineer at Xanthella, Laurence has already been involved in developing a 100L volume photobioreactor to increase the product range offered by Xanthella. A number of the new Pandora 100 “Odyssey” PBRs, with customised LED light sheets, were recently delivered to the Limerick Institute of Technology in Ireland.
Microscopic algae could hold the answer to the pothole nightmare that is blighting our roads.
A French collaborative programme, Algoroute, has been examining the production of bio-bitumen from algae. Using a process called hydrothermal liquefaction (pressurised water), waste algae is transformed into black, viscous bio-bitumen. The thick liquid has very similar characteristics to fossil-fuel based bitumen used on the roads.
The properties of the algal bio-bitumen suggest it could be an alternative for traditional bitumen used to bind aggregate on the roads and may be the future, creating “green” roads. Experimental trials and cost evaluations are being undertaken and further information will be available soon.
Watch this space…
For more details click here
ExxonMobil continues to fund a wide range of research into next generation biofuels, which includes the potential of algae. The work forms part of their ongoing examination of new technologies that will increase energy supplies, company efficiency and reduce carbon emissions.
Over the last 40 years algae have been widely studied as a feedstock for biofuel, as many species produce large quantities of storage oil products. The oil can be chemically modified to give a bio-diesel of similar composition to current transport diesel fuel. Cultivating algae has many benefits, including reducing green house gas emissions by direct incorporation of carbon dioxide; potentially higher yields of biofuel compared to other feedstocks and algal crops do not compete with food production for land or water.
ExxonMobil have a number of research collaborations focusing on algae-based biofuels and other non-food based feedstocks for biofuel with: Synthetic Genomics, Inc. (SGI), Colorado School of Mines and Michigan State; Renewable Energy Group (REG) and the University of Wisconsin.
Read more details of the research and development programme.
A new Algae Agricultural Act has been introduced to congress in the United States. The bill will give algal farmers the same advantages as farmers of traditional crops. The legislation reflects an increasing recognition of the potential of algae as an extremely useful agricultural crop for future food, feedstocks and the energy sector.
Read the full article
We’re looking forward to attending ALL-Energy this week
2nd and 3rd May at the SEC in Glasgow.
Drop in and say hello, we’ll be at
Stand Number HIE49
in the HIEnergy Pavillion.
Join the conversation @ASLEEproject16
Xanthella is delighted to welcome Dr. Sebastien Jubeau to their team as Research Director.
Sebastien has a master’s degree in plant chemistry and quality of plant products from Agrocampus Ouest (Rennes, France). During his internship at Ifremer Nantes he discovered the world of microalgae, working on the production of exopolysaccharides by different species. Aware of the huge potential that microalgae represent, he decided to complete his master’s degree in biotechnology and bioprocess at Nantes University and studied the production of an exometabolite by a diatom during his internship at laboratory GEPEA (Saint-Nazaire, Nantes). He then spent the next three years working on his PhD thesis on the biorefinery of the red microalga Porphyridium cruentum. He successfully developed a process to valorise the whole biomass enabling production of different high value extracts.
After his thesis, he became project manager at AlgoSource Technologies where he was in charge of all projects concerning downstream processing and microalgae valorisation. During this time he was a project partner, work package leader and project leader in various projects, including FP7 BIOFAT project, the ADEME Algoraff project and the H2020 BBI Magnificent. He has also worked with private companies to develop new microalgal based products for the nutraceutical, cosmetic and feed markets. He is the co-author of 11 scientific articles and 2 patents.
Sebastien is looking forward to getting involved in the innovative ASLEE and ENBIO projects at Xanthella.
Xanthella Ltd are thrilled to announce their success as overall winners in the Rural Enterprise and Innovation category at the Scottish Rural Awards 2018. The Scottish Rural Awards are the ultimate benchmark of excellence in Scotland’s countryside – a celebration of the enterprise, innovation, dedication and community spirit of those who live in rural Scotland.
Along with over 400 guests and some of Scotland’s most outstanding rural businesses, representatives from Xanthella’s team attended the evening award ceremony and gala dinner on 22nd March at Dynamic Earth in Edinburgh.
Within the ASLEE project Xanthella have developed large scale photobioreactors (Pandora PBR™) that are able to respond to intermittent energy supply and the team is now working on the Energy for the Bioeconomy (ENBIO) project alongside ALIenergy and Woodland Renewables. ENBIO will further exploit the PBR technology and build an industrial scale array of PBRs on the Ardnamurchan Estate. The judges were impressed with the innovative nature of the ASLEE and ENBIO projects and how they integrate algal bioproduction with locally generated renewable electricity, helping to balance the grid, creating a new bioindustry and boosting the rural circular economy by utilising stranded resources.
Innovation is their motivation at the Scottish Rural Awards
Phosphorous (P) is an essential, indispensable, but non-renewable, nutrient used as a fertilizer for the growth of all crops. However, excessive use and potential discharge of P into the environment can lead to eutrophication, which results in algae blooms and dead zones. Therefore, recovering P from waste streams has become a major objective both to provide new sources of fertilisers and to prevent pollution.
The Phos4You project, funded by Interreg North-West Europe programme, specifically targets phosphorus recovery from municipal waste water treatment plants (WWTPs). Six different demonstrators of innovative P-recovery technologies will be constructed and operated in real life conditions for municipal sewage water.
Scotland is considered as 97% rural with around 1600 waste water treatment plants serving communities with less than 500 persons. In small waste water treatment plants such as these, nutrients are usually not recovered, potentially leading to eutrophication problems when the waste water is discharged. Recovering P from these decentralized small waste water treatment plants requires systems offering robustness, low maintenance and adapted to a high variability of P in wastewater.
Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU), as part of the Interreg North West Europe Phos4You project, is evaluating a microalgae phosphorous recovery technology as part of its focus on technologies adapted to remote, rural and island locations in Scotland. The extremophile microalgae Chlamydomonas acidophila, which grows at a pH of 2-3, is being tested in this context for its high phosphorus and nitrogen uptake rates (up to 90%) whilst operating at low light intensities.
The novel, internally illuminated Pandora PBR™ photobioreactor (PBR) designed, developed and built by ASLEE partner Xanthella, is being considered for scale-up testing of this nature-based technology.
GCU and Xanthella are in discussions about how algal production can be enhanced and how the species used in wastewater treatment can grow and recover nutrients in their manufactured systems.