Forschungs- & Entwicklungsinformationsdienst der Gemeinschaft - CORDIS

Biomass production system for the biosynthesis of carotenoids

Processes are being developed for the cost effective biosynthesis of carotenoids using algae. Carotenoids are important ingredients, widely used as pigments and anti oxidants in the food, pharmaceutical, cosmetic and health food industries. Different technologies for the production of microalgae biomass are being studied. These integrate alternative systems based on either closed photobioreactors or raceway pond systems. The complete raceway system will be developed to produce beta-carotene using Dunaliella, while the photo bioreactor system will be used for astaxanthin biosynthesis by Haematococcus.

Laboratory scale culture equipment was assembled and small scale raceway ponds were built and the analytical techniques set up. Development of protocols for carotenoid analysis has also caused problems. One of the important points under consideration is the selection of the best strains in terms of growth and carotenoid production under the climatic conditions found in the south of Portugal. Some progress in this area has been made. The development of culture conditions is also important. It has already been concluded that carotenoid production has to be carried out under a different set of conditions from those favouring increase in biomass. Therefore the optimization of both sets of conditions is necessary. The separation of the cells, has also been a subject under study, with some innovative methods being tested. These include microfiltration and the natural migration of cells from a layer of high salt concentration to a less concentrated one. The extraction of the carotenoid from the cells is also complex; experiments using supercritical extraction as well as conjugation of flocculation/oil extraction have been started. The best choice was found to be the extraction into vegetable oil. The important problem of preserving the carotenoids either within or outside the cells has also been investigated, with some promising results.


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