CORDIS - EU research results

Single-step disentanglement and fractionation of microalgal high-value products through acoustophoresis

Project description

Taking full advantage of microalgal powerhouses

Microscopic algae are single-celled organisms. Highly effective producers of biomass for biofuel production, these little organisms are poised to play a major role in industrial-scale production of clean renewable energy. However, only a small portion of their biomass is used in this way. The rest is a treasure-trove of natural compounds of great interest to markets such as biopharmaceuticals and nutraceuticals. These are currently wasted because biorefineries cannot cost-effectively retrieve them. AlgCoustics is developing a pioneering extraction technique that promises to isolate them in a single step, providing incentive to biorefineries while also supplying natural compounds-of-interest to numerous other industries.


Next generation biomass resources such as marine seaweed and micro-algae have advantages in comparison to terrestrial lignocellulosic biomass as they can grow on non-arable land at higher areal productivities. Aquatic biomass can provide renewable energy (e.g. biodiesel, bioethanol and biogas) as well as high-value molecules such as carotenoids, fatty acids, carbohydrates, proteins and food fibres, which can be used in food, feed, cosmetics, biomaterials, nanostructures and pharmaceutical industries. However, in order to greatly increase the economic viability of aquatic biomass, all components found in the biomass need to be valorized. Unfortunately, valorization of multiple biomass components is not possible using current/conventional biorefinery technologies, where up to 90% of the biomass is being treated as a waste. The value of these broken-down compounds sees more than a ten-fold reduction, rendering the biorefinery economically unfeasible. Therefore, in furtherance of developing multiproduct biorefineries, selective and economically feasible extraction and separation technologies will need to be developed and implemented. Significant microalgal cell disruption and extraction advances have been recently made by employing external fields such as lasers, ultrasonic waves and microwaves, in combination with less aggressive solvents and ionic liquids. However, the issues regarding the use of chemicals and multiple separation stages remain. Thus, we are proposing a game-changing single-step disentanglement and separation of microalgal high-value components by using acoustic waves at different frequencies allowing thus a complete process fine-tuning and eliminating the need for chemicals. Moreover, by including our previously-developed ultrasound disruption technology, the whole cell breakdown, extraction and separation steps could be reduced to one single process governed and finely-tuned through the employed frequency ranges.


Net EU contribution
€ 187 572,48
6708 PB Wageningen

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Oost-Nederland Gelderland Veluwe
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 187 572,48