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From microalgae to useful products

EU scientists are developing a microalgae biorefinery that utilises non-potable saline waters to produce nutritional and pharmaceutical products as well as protein and green chemical feedstocks.


The aim of the D-FACTORY (The micro algae biorefinery) project is to set a worldwide benchmark for a sustainable biorefinery using biomass from the salt-tolerant microalgae Dunaliella salina. Dunaliella cultivation is the largest for any microalgae, involving hundreds of hectares. Dunaliella is a microalga that grows in saline non-potable water throughout the world, capturing carbon dioxide (CO2) and harnessing sunlight energy. It also naturally produces carotenoids and other commercially valuable compounds, such as bioactives, emulsifiers, polymers and glycerol. The D-FACTORY biorefinery will tune the alga to make these products in different proportions before extracting and preparing them to meet market requirements. High densities of Dunaliella cells will be cultivated in open raceways and photobioreactors and then delicately harvested using spiral plate and membrane technologies. A range of carefully selected processing technologies will be integrated and optimised using sophisticated modelling techniques. The resulting materials will be screened and formulated to give a new range of products. Development of the prototype D-FACTORY biorefinery is currently underway. It will be used to prove the business case for global investment in sustainable large-scale CO2 algae biorefineries via an innovation platform. In addition, designs, flowsheets and integrated schemes together with sustainability assessments are being created for use in benchmarking a wide range of products and paths.


Microalgae, biorefinery, saline waters, biomass, Dunaliella salina, photobioreactors

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