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MIRACLES Report Summary

Project ID: 613588
Funded under: FP7-KBBE
Country: Netherlands

Periodic Report Summary 2 - MIRACLES (Multi-product Integrated bioRefinery of Algae: from Carbon dioxide and Light Energy to high-value Specialties)

Project Context and Objectives:
Project context and objectives
Microalgae biotechnology has large potential as a sustainable production platform for food and non-food products. Algae biomass is rich in oils, proteins and carbohydrates and other valuable compounds. For successful scale-up, production costs need to be significantly reduced and (economic) output enhanced. The 4 year MIRACLES project addresses these challenges by:
• improving the cost-effectiveness of algae production and processing through technology development along the production chain;
• development of multiple-product biorefinery technology for production of specialties from algae;
• development of new algae-based products for food, aquaculture and non-food applications.
The results are evaluated via techno-economic analysis, Life Cycle Assessment and socio-economic analysis of industrial implementation. Business plans for commercialization are developed.

Progress and main results to date
WP1 focuses on improvement of production and harvesting of algal biomass to achieve substantial cost reduction. Algae biomass from 4 industrial strains (Isochrysis galbana, Nannochloropsis gaditana, Phaeodactylum tricornutum and Scenedesmus obliquus) was supplied to partners by Fitoplancton for processing and application R&D. A promising gene was found for rapid analysis of the Tri Acyl Glycerides (TAG)-accumulation status in N. gaditana cultures under nitrogen deprivation. Experiments are ongoing to quantify the predicting character of this gene.
Development of technology for CO2 concentration from the atmosphere aims at realizing supported amine based technology for CO2 capture from air at a suitable concentration for algae cultivation at minimal costs. For several sorbents a good CO2 adsorption capacity and stability was shown. Sorbent regeneration studies were performed. A novel radial flow contactor is designed, constructed and tested for adsorption performance to enable sorbent circulation and regeneration.
Development of a novel Liquid Foam Bed PhotoBioReactor concept aims for significant cost reductions due to lower reactor weight and improved gas exchange. Pluronic F68 was selected as a suitable surfactant. Different reactor types were designed and tested to obtain stable foam conditions for algae growth. A model is developed to describe algae growth in the bioreactor and for techno-economic assessment.
Development of membrane based combined harvesting and medium recycle technology aims to reduce costs and energy use. After screening, the two most promising concepts were studied in detail: (1) crossflow on centrate (liquid after centrifugation) and (2) an innovative integrated pre-harvesting and water recirculation approach using submerged membranes. Lab scale recirculation tests revealed that 75-90% medium recirculation is possible without negative impacts on algae growth when suitable doses of N and P are added. An integrated and scaled up algae harvesting & water recycling unit, based on submerged membranes, will be used for medium recirculation tests at pilot scale in the next project phase.

The objective of WP2 is to perform Bioprospecting and selection of robust, highly productive algal species from extreme and diverse climatological conditions. The aim is to enable cultivation of algae in areas with limited potential for agriculture, and broaden the resource base of the microalgae industry by finding new production strains with potential application in various market segments. Over the last 2 years 254 environmental samples have been collected during extensive sampling campaigns in highly diverse climatological conditions (Arctic waters, sub-tropical islands, altiplanic lagoons). 27 candidate strains have been identified with commercial potential based on their growth potential and high content of PUFA (PolyUnsaturated Fatty Acids), proteins, colorants, or specific functionalities.
Project Results:
To evaluate the productivity potential in different climatic conditions, identical outdoor GWP-III photobioreactor systems have been installed at partners in Norway, Gran Canarias and Chile, presenting a unique possibility to compare productivity data of reference strains in identical reactor systems under different climatic conditions. Efforts are also made to gain knowledge on how to optimize EPA productivity through metabolic modelling of the fatty acid metabolism of N. gaditana via growth experiments using NaH13CO3 as sole carbon source to study the origin of EPA accumulation and by transcriptomic monitoring of genes involved in EPA biosynthesis of N. gaditana during actual production cycles in outdoor pilot scale photobioreactors.

WP3 aims at development of integrated biorefinery / processing technologies employing mild disruption, green extraction and fractionation/purification technologies to produce multiple specialty products from microalgae biomass.
The biochemical composition of the four algal strains provided has been established in detail.
For cell disruption, High-Pressure Homogenization (HPH) and bead milling were efficient enough to release about 50% of proteins with low energy input. Enzymatic treatment with proteases showed low energy input and significant release of proteins / peptides but not as high as bead milling and HPH. A sequential refining extraction procedure, combining compressed fluids technologies, has been developed for S. obliquus and I. galbana.
Fractionation and product isolation and purification, research focused on the use of membranes to purify proteins, which is ongoing. The five selected biorefinery value chains have been designed in SuperPro Designer®.
In the area of Product Development and Market Assessment (WP4) significant progress has been made, leading towards new applications, not yet described in the market. This is an innovation breakthrough. Several aquafeed formulations containing microalgae are already available: formulations for juvenile fish, for shrimps and for ornamental fish already demonstrated an interesting potential for microalgae in products with enhanced consumer value. More trials are ongoing / scheduled.
Innovative specialty products derived from algae have been identified, isolated and evaluated. New anti-microbial peptides can find an application in cosmetics and food systems; novel anti-oxidant molecules are being tested in cosmetics; new colorants are proposed for cosmetics and food. Also algae derivatives are being validated as plant growth promoter, improving plant quality and aesthetics well beyond a normal fertilising effect.
Even more bulky innovative applications are now demonstrated. Protein-enriched algae extracts (e.g. after oil extraction) can replace up to 30% of phenol in adhesives for plywood. Similar fractions or whole cell algae are effectively incorporated in aesthetic biomaterials for flooring, table top and light covers and have been compounded with thermoplastic starch to be injection moulded. Products with algae-containing bioplastics are under development. Food application tests with algae oils and proteins in different food systems are planned to take place in 2017.
In support to the application trials, a database with key figures on the market potential for the different applications is ready. Based on this database 5 value chains have been selected for demonstration and business scenarios for each chain initiated. More product development is ongoing.
The overarching aim of the Demonstration of selected integrated value chains in WP5 is to deliver proof-of-concept and demonstrate techno-economic viability. Progress to date includes 1) selection of value chains for demonstration with as primary target products Whole cell, Oil & Lipids, Proteins & Carbohydrates, Food Specialties and Non-Food Specialties 2) pilot scale production of algae batches with optimized composition for demo work by Fitoplancton is ongoing.

Potential Impact:
WP6 aims at Techno-economic and sustainability assessment of integrated value chains & development of business plans. Scenarios and conceptual process chains based on the five product value chains were developed for deeper investigation. Process integration, using algae strain specific data and a first economic evaluation of the biorefinery were performed. The current cost estimates show that the cultivation costs are a major contributor (40-70%) to the overall production costs. The key conclusion is that generation of co-products and exploitation of residues is vital to 1) improve the economics, 2) reduce waste, and 3) reduce the environmental impact per component. The final project period will focus on generation of co-products and/or valorisation of residues in order to further develop the process design of the value chains that will be fine-tuned and consolidated.
WP7 aims to ensure effective communication, dissemination, exploitation and intellectual property management of the project results. This is supported via the project website (more than 21.000 visits to date) and social networks that are regularly updated. A digital Newsletter is released every 6 months, consortium partners participate in conferences and publish project results in peer reviewed and other journals. On 28 – 31 August, 2017 a Biorefinery summer school will be organized in collaboration with Wageningen University Graduate School (VLAG).
Expected final results and their potential impact and use
The MIRACLES project addresses major hurdles for expansion of the algae industry by enhancing cost-effectiveness of algae production and processing through innovation, development of multiple-product biorefinery technology for specialties from algae and development of new products for food, aquaculture and non-food. Good progress is being made. The final results of the project will contribute to scale-up and growth of the algae sector within the Bio-Economy and will have a positive impact on the competitiveness and growth of the SME sector, in particular the European marine biotechnology industry with a positive impact on employment.
The MIRACLES consortium has 26 partners including 11 research organizations from 6 EU countries plus Norway and Chile, with complementary expertise. Industrial leadership is guaranteed by the participation of 3 multinational end user companies and 12 SME’s
Project website
Project Coordinator: Hans Reith
Wageningen University, Agrotechnology & Food Sciences.
Tel. +31 (0) 317 485228

Exploitation Officer: Philippe Willems
Value for Technology (VFT)
Telephone: +32 2 759 33 10
Mobile: +32 475 801 602

List of Websites:

Related information


Tom Bessems, (Company Lawyer)
Tel.: +31317484478
Record Number: 199703 / Last updated on: 2017-06-21
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