Productie van chemicaliën en biobrandstoffen uit micro-algen

10 november 2009 R. Wijffels

Biodiesel derived from oil crops is a potential renewable and carbon neutral alternative to petroleum fuels. Microalgae, like higher plants, produce storage lipids in the form of triacyglycerols (TAGs) which can be used to synthesize fatty acid methyl esters (a substitute for fossil-derived diesel fuel). Microalgae represent a very attractive alternative compared to terrestrial oleaginous species because their productivity is much higher and it does not compete for land suitable for agricultural irrigation or consumption by humans or animals, providing therefore food security. To date, commercial application of microalgae has concentrated on compounds that have a very high value per kilo (e.g. carotenoids). To be a feasible source for biodiesel, the current price for microalgae production needs to be reduced by two orders of magnitude. In addition, the scale of production of lipids from microalgae would need to be three orders of magnitude greater than the scale currently possible for high-value compounds. These ambitious goals are feasible because the potential productivity of microalgae is tenfold greater than that of agricultural crops. We executed a feasibility study of producing microalgae and compared several production technologies.