Microalgae can be used in a wide range of bioproducts, and be produced on a large scale. The value gained in their transformation from a simple raw material to biofuel and energy allows sustainable and commercially viable production. In this context, the potential of microalgae for recovery in the field of biotechnology, and especially in the field of energy, has now been investigated.
By Bodjui Olivier Abo
Algae are increasingly emerging as one of the most promising sustainable and long-term sources of biomass and oils for fuel, animal feed, and other co-products. What makes them so attractive is the large number and wide variety of benefits associated with how and where they grow.
Ancient and abundant
For three and a half billion years, microalgae have colonized almost all of the planet’s ecosystems: from oceans to glaciers, through hyper-salt lakes, soils, rocks and trees. These unicellular photosynthetic microorganisms, which use light as a source of energy to fix inorganic carbon (CO2), play a key role in the functioning of marine ecosystems and shape the climate by modulating atmospheric CO2. Nearly 50 gigatons of organic carbon are formed each year by these organisms, of which 8 to 15 gigatons are exported to the deep ocean.
The preservation of our planet requires a sustainable model of development. For this reason, the authors of a recent review published in Reviews on Environmental Health believe that humans must adopt sustainable production systems at the economic, energy and environmental level. According to the scientists from the University of Science and Technology in Beijing, China, an interesting alternative would be the use of microalgae as feedstock (the raw material used to fuel an industrial process). In fact, they consider microalgae to be one of the most suitable biological resources for the development of sustainable technologies whilst minimizing environmental impacts on air and water. “Microalgal biomass has natural virtues that can be used in a wide range of bioproducts”, the scientists point out.
However, significant research efforts are still needed to overcome a variety of biological, technical, economic and environmental challenges in the development of a system for the production of sustainable and commercially viable microalgae. The authors’ main focus lies therefore on the different types of microalgae crops, on factors influencing their growth, as well as on biofuel production methods. In their work, various ways of converting microalgae into energy or chemical products are being explained – alongside a discussion of economic factors.
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