Carbon dioxide (CO2) as a valuable carbon source has been receiving increasing attention in recent years. There is, of course, a trend in which the increasing concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere is receiving a lot of attention. In that sense, there is an increasing focus on sustainability in society, and within Thomas More we are working towards a more circular economy and a more bio-based economy. That is, where materials, chemicals and energy come from renewable (energy) sources, and not from fossil fuels. Alternative biomass can become an important source for this.
Our research group is engaged in the cultivation of renewable biomass, including in the form of algae. We do this under controlled conditions in large horizontal tubes of a photobioreactor. We choose to use pure CO2 as a carbon source, and we grow the algae for various applications. For example, algae can be useful in the animal feed sector (‘feed’), in the food industry (‘food’), in the health industry (‘neutraceuticals’), or in the cosmetics industry. As a research group, we are less involved in developing these applications; we are more concerned with the cultivation optimization of the algae, in other words the process technology side of it.
Algae for conversion into valuable raw materials
Microalgae are a very large and diverse group. More than 50,000 different algae species have been described, and probably hundreds of thousands of species exist. They are unicellular organisms, but they can also sometimes form colonies.
Algae are photoautotrophic organisms. This means that they use CO2 as a carbon source and convert it into sugars through photosynthesis.
Microalgae that we grow contain a lot of interesting substances. Proteins, sugars and fats, those are the larger groups. In addition, there are high-quality chemicals made by micro-algae, such as pigments and antioxidants. For example, we use Radius to grow a special algae that produces the precious red dye phycoerythrin.
Algae are in fact small factories that produce all kinds of substances that we like; So to synthesize those substances, we don’t have to reinvent the wheel all over again. Everything in the algal cells has evolved evolutionarily to make those interesting substances, based only on some sunlight, CO2, and some nutrients. So there is enormous potential to start using those substances.
An algae culture grows in density through cell division. If conditions permit, the algae will continue to divide until a culture reaches its maximum density. At that point, the algae are harvested: the algae biomass itself is therefore the product. In our closed photobioreactors we achieve a density of 1 to 2 grams of dry matter per litre, which we can then extract. This biomass can be used directly in, for example, food or as animal feed, but we can also process the biomass further, ‘break it open’, and extract the most interesting substances. We do the latter in the form of bio-refining or extraction. The entire process of growing, harvesting and further processing algae is quite a challenge, where every step is important, and must be performed as efficiently as possible to make it profitable.
Growing algae with Lgem
Growing algae can be done better, in an easy and affordable way. Lgem designs and manufactures reliable and innovative systems to grow algae, and we control all biochemical processes involved. It is important for us that our systems are low-labour intensive, low in energy and scalable.
Already working with algae cultivation? We can help you improve your algae cultivation with our systems. Our innovative operating systems are created by tapping into our extensive research and knowledge. With our easy-to-operate systems, we make it possible for anyone to produce algae without having to make a huge investment.
Lgem offers proven algal technology at any scale. The newest Lgem photobioreactors are entirely automated and integrated into a completely automated production facility with up-and downstream unit operations and climate-controlled greenhouse/buildings.
Lgem avails over the highest production standards, achieved with our high-quality in-house engineering and production. The capacity of our production allows for short lead times worldwide, even for large projects.
Industrial production needs turnkey, fully automated solutions. Lgem is the one-stop-shop for the realisation of your algae production facility.