Evolving LED technology: enhancing microalgal production

Microalgae are extremely interesting organisms that are able to produce a wide variety of biochemical compounds such as pigments, lipids, carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins and minerals (Gupta, et al., 2015). These chemicals have bioactive properties that can be used in several industries and are being increasingly studied and exploited.

As large-scale production of microalgae becomes more common, the need for cost-effective systems and efficient culturing techniques has become more important than ever. The potential and range of application of microalgae include the production of aquaculture feed, food supplements, cosmetics and nutraceuticals (Schulze, et al., 2014). Algae pigments are used in the food and cosmetic industry as natural food colorants. Additionally, certain strains of algae such as Spirulina and Chlorella are commercialized in the form of food supplements due to their overall health benefits. This increasing demand in production has led to a parallel development of both photobioreactors (PBR) and available light sources.

Artificial light sources for use in microalgal production systems include fluorescent lamps and light-emitting diodes (LEDs). Historically, fluorescent tubes were widely used because of their wide light spectrum. However, recent findings show that fluorescent lights do not provide the right wavelength for microalgal photosynthesis due to the variability between different algal strains. In contrast, LEDs are highly flexible light sources  – they can be produced very cheaply and can be manufactured with a wide variety of wavelengths and desired intensities. LEDs have also become increasingly energy efficient over the years, with white-light LEDs in particular having efficiencies of up to 50%. Since microalgae depend on a “balanced mix of wavelengths for normal growth“ (Schulze, et al., 2014), LEDs are currently the best light source available.

Within the ASLEE project we are using the highly efficient LEDs in the form of encapsulated light sheets that are fully submerged in the microalgal photobioreactor. Numerous light sheets are included in the pilot scale PBRs to ensure effective distribution of light to the growing microalgae. The light sheets are powered by excess renewable energy at source, which not only further reduces the cost of producing the microalgae, but also provides a demand side management and grid balancing service. The added value income stream is made possible by a newly developed combination of Xanthella and VCharge technologies that automatically adjusts the photobioreactor lighting in rapid response to grid frequency.

By utilising the rapidly evolving LED technology, the ASLEE project is able to reduce the cost of microalgal biomanufacturing whilst at the same time offering a radical and exciting solution to grid constraints and, potentially, overcome curtailment of renewable energy projects. That’s a bright solution!

Join us – up and coming events for April and May

CARES conference

26th and 27th April 2017

at The Golden Lion Hotel, King Street, Stirling

ASLEE project partners will be amongst the delegates discussing the Scottish Government’s energy strategy consultation and the key role of community energy.

Click here to view full details


All Energy Exhibition and Conference – 10th and 11th May 2017

SEC, Glasgow


Click here for full event details and delegate registration



Making Connections at Empowering Rural Industries Conference

Around 120 delegates joined us for a very successful and highly engaging day at the Technology and Innovation Centre in Glasgow on 20th March. Professor Sir Jim McDonald, Principal of Strathclyde University, welcomed everyone to the fantastic university venue where industry, public sector, academia and research all connect. He spoke of the energy trilemma ( and “quadrilemma”) and the potential opportunities. He also expressed his keenness to examine, as chair of the Energy Technology Partnership, how he could support the ASLEE project.

The welcome was followed by a keynote address from Katherine White, head of the Strategy and Projects Unit within the Energy and Climate Change directorate at the Scottish Government,  outlining Scottish Government’s draft energy strategy and its underlying themes, goals and priorities.   

The diverse challenges facing rural economies were reflected in the range of presentations in session 1. Talks from Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and the Centre for Remote and Rural studies at UHI, were delivered along with industry perspectives from Scottish Power Energy Networks (SPEN), Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre (SAIC) and Scottish Craft Distillers Association.

After a refreshment break, a number of the ASLEE project partners gave an excellent overview of the project achievements over the last 10 months. These included the technical and biological findings, the proposed economic model and the potential for the future. A long networking lunch then allowed delegates to interact and engage with the speakers and exhibitors in the exhibition area. Details of the exhibiting organisations can be found here.

In the afternoon, we heard about other local energy innovations and initiatives, including production and use of hydrogen; anaerobic digestion and bioenergy; energy storage technologies; distribution network management, and the Eden Campus facility at St Andrews University.

The day ended with talks and a panel discussion on policy and future opportunities. The panel, chaired by former MSP Mr Jim Mather included Paul Hudman from IBioIC, Scott Bryant of Zero Waste Scotland, Jennifer Ramsay from Local Energy Scotland and Douglas McKenzie, CEO of Xanthella.

Summing up at the end of the day, Mr Mather reflected on the success of bringing together different perspectives and stressed the importance of building on the collaborative conversations that had been started.

All presentations from the conference are available here – click on the speakers name within the conference programme.

ASLEE project would like to thank HIE for their support of the event, and all the speakers, exhibitors and delegates for their contributions, questions and discussions.

Don’t let the conversation end, follow us on twitter and facebook

Major funding granted to CyanoSol, Robert Gordon University

The CyanoSol group at Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen, are delighted to announce funding of approximately £1.4 million from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) in a Global Challenge for “In-reservoir destruction of Blue-Green algae and their toxins”. CyanoSol director Professor Linda Lawton will be principal investigator for the new project, working with Professor Peter Richardson at Queens University, Belfast and Professor John Irvine and Dr Paul Conner of St. Andrews University.  

CyanoSol aims to develop sustainable exploitation of the diverse biosynthetic capabilities of blue-green algae (Cyanobacteria) and are involved in internationally renowned research into the environmental impact and monitoring of toxins and other problematic metabolites, including taste and odour compounds produced by the algae.

The group directed by Professor Linda Lawton and deputy director Dr Christine Edwards has a dedicated algal production facility, with state of the art purification and analytical suite and more than 50 years experience working with bioactive natural products from plants and microbes. Current projects include a wide collaboration network (at national and international level) with organisations including: Industrial Biotechnology Innovation Centre (IBioIC); National Collection of Industrial Food and Marine Bacteria (NCIMB); Xanthella;  Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas); EPSRC; SuperGen Bioenergy Hub; Enzo; Cyanocost.  

Current CyanoSol projects include:

  • Photo-Catalytic production of bioethanol
  • Production of high value bioactive compounds
  • Sustainable Exploitation of Algae
  • Novel Bioactives from Streptomyces

Highlands and Islands Enterprise supporting Empowering Rural Industries Conference

Highlands and Islands Enterprise is pleased to support the Empowering Rural Industries Conference being held next week. bringing together a diverse range of stakeholders, this event will stimulate conversations particularly in the context of building sustainability and community resilience in the rural economy.

Join the conversation on the 20th March 2017 at the Technology and Innovation Centre in Glasgow @asleeproject16 @HIE @European Marine Science Park @LECF


For other information click on European Marine Science Park


ASLEE on display at Local Energy Challenge Fund Showcase 2017

There was a great turn out for the Local Energy Scotland showcase event on 15th February at The Academy in Glasgow.

The ASLEE exhibition stand was well attended and Xanthella’s Dr Douglas McKenzie presented a brief overview of the ASLEE project. The event was a great opportunity to meet the other project teams currently supported by the Local Energy Challenge Fund.  All presentation slides from the event can be found here.

More information on Scottish Government’s Local Energy Challenge fund is available here.


Scottish Energy Strategy: The future of energy in Scotland

The Scottish Government has launched a consultation on a Scottish Energy Strategy which sets out a vision and strategy for the future of energy for the period to 2050. The draft Energy Strategy is composed as a free-standing companion to the draft Climate Change Plan – designed to provide a long term vision to guide detailed energy policy decisions over the coming decades.

The consultation document sets out the aspiration to create a strong low carbon economy – sharing the benefits across communities, reducing social inequalities, and creating a vibrant climate for innovation, investment and high value jobs.

The Scottish Government has previously committed long-term funding to develop local energy systems, through a number of initiatives, such as the Local Energy Challenge Fund which has provided support for the ASLEE project.

A key element of the strategy is the continued support for local and community scale renewable energy projects which deliver sustainable economic, social and environmental benefits to communities throughout Scotland. Through the implementation of the Scottish Energy Strategy, the Scottish Government has reiterated its commitment to supporting the development of local energy economies as part of a varied and proportionate response to the challenges brought by the transformation of Scotland’s energy system. ASLEE aspires to make a significant contribution to the success of this commitment.

The consultation closes on 30 May 2017 and if you wish to comment you can read the full consultation document here: http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2017/01/3414/0


Empowering Rural Industries – Don’t miss out on a place – Free registration

Join us for an interactive day of discussion and presentations from a cross-sector delegation.

Speakers will debate on the challenges faced by Scotland’s rural economy; how innovative solutions can realise renewable energy potential and shape local bioindustry; and the opportunities for future energy innovations.

Check the latest programme

Only a few weeks to go before registration closes

Follow the ASLEE project story on Facebook

Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust funding awarded

Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust

ASLEE partner, ALIenergy is delighted to receive funding from the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust’s Sustainable Future Programme, to help spread the word about the ASLEE project as a radical and exciting new solution to electric grid constraints and economic viability issues for renewable energy projects – using a circular economic model to overcome intermittent energy supply issues and provide a grid balancing service, coupling electricity generation with an algal manufacturing process – whilst also creating a valuable product from local waste streams.

ALIenergy representatives Lynda Mitchell and Carole Shellcock traveled to London to meet with the charity trustees, who commented that they were particularly inspired by the potential this project has to address multiple issues.

The Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust – Sustainable Future Programme aims to tackle anthropogenic climate change which is threatening the well-being of humanity. Technological change is essential but not sufficient; fundamental changes to economic models will also be required. Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust is deeply concerned about climate change and its effects, and believes that our care for future generations morally compels us to play a part in tackling it.

If you would like to hear more about the ASLEE project, or would like to invite us to speak at your event or organisation, please get in touch.

For more information visit  Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust

The Beauty of Algae

Crùbag….inspired by the beauty and hidden secrets of the ocean.

Crùbag believes marine science is beautiful. Using the evocative power of design, Crùbag makes luxury scarves and stunning textiles inspired by the beauty and hidden secrets of the marine environment. Each piece tells a story about the oceans, cutting-edge research and current environmental issues. It became our mission to portray these tiny windows of wonders that scientists open and share the passion and love we have for the sea. Our products are beautiful, tangible and made with love and craftsmanship. We use only natural fabrics and manufacture to very high environmental standards.

Crùbag’s founder and designer, Jessica Giannotti, uses her background in marine science to tell the stories and inspiration behind these beautiful designs. With a design studio at the Scottish Marine Institute, on the beautiful West Coast of Scotland, Crùbag draws constant inspiration from it’s setting. We also donate a portion of our sales to scientific institutions to support continued research in marine science.

The Gachon Collection

Crùbag’s first collection, the Gachon Collection, was inspired by research carried out by Dr Claire Gachon, from the Scottish Association for Marine Science. Claire is particularly interested in algae-pathogen interactions and the effects of pathogen infection on the ecosystem and in regulating biodiversity. Algae can suffer from parasites and diseases just like terrestrial plants, understanding the algae-pathogen relationship is an important area of research for ecosystem functioning and aquaculture production (supporting health, food, chemical and biofuel industries). The designs within the Gachon collection illustrate the beauty of the algae and the pathogens and show how the natural environment works. Early development stages of the collection were funded by Natural Environment Research Council allowing us to create a comprehensive science outreach package to go with our luxurious textiles. With the success of the Gachon collection, we experienced how giving people beautiful products that they can touch and wear inspires new conversations about science and brings awareness of complex ecological issues into daily life.

The Flora Collection

The Flora collection was inspired by research on harmful algal blooms and the development was kindly sponsored by the International Society for the Study of Harmful Algae. The objective was to spark interest in micro-algae, specifically harmful algal blooms (HABs), with the creation of beautiful and unusual textile items. Microscopic marine algae exhibit a wealth of shapes, colours and textures which lend themselves exceptionally well to textile design. HABs occur when the normally benign growth of algae becomes detrimental to humans or other organisms. This project focused on the five mechanisms in which a HAB can be detrimental, specifically: (1) damage to fish gills; (2) water discolouration; (3) anoxia; (4) slime or foam formation and (5) biotoxin production.

Crùbag’s abstract and artistic depictions of the research science connects people on a subjective and emotional level; whereas the science-outreach materials (printed and online) ignite excitement, curiosity and encourage a more cognitive and analytical response. These two aspects of our work combined with the tangible feel of the textiles and the three-dimensional form of the skillfully crafted accessories encourage an overall positive response similar to that evoked by charismatic species. People tend to attach and care about what they know. We bring marine research and scientists closer to peoples’ minds and hearts. The luxurious products make our customers feel unique and inspired. Crùbag has developed a new sense of luxury more attuned to our current Zeitgeist. Come and explore with us!

We are launching a new website with lots of content and a new online shop very soon. In the meantime feel free to get in touch – jessica@crubag.co.uk