Large-scale cultivation of microalgae for the sustainable production of biofuels and other products has great potential. Growth and processing of microalgae is complex and much technological and scientific development is required to make production efficient and cost-effective. In particular, the conversion of the microalgal biomass into fuels such as biodiesel requires considerable attention.
In this project, the Algal Processing Group in the Department of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering have partnered with a leading microalgae biotechnology company, Aurora Algae. The Algal Processing Group has developed a novel and efficient process for breaking microalgal cells and extracting lipids for biofuel production. The goal of this project was to fully establish the feasibility of this process and better understand the fundamental mechanisms of cell breakage and solvent extraction. The project was supplied with large quantities of algal biomass material from Aurora Algae’s advanced outdoor production facility in Karratha, Western Australia.
Through this partnership, the project has established the effectiveness of the cell disruption and solvent extraction processes on Aurora Algae’s production strain, and uncovered new insights into the mechanisms of cell weakening that occur in the first pre-incubation step of the process. This project has enabled an accurate assessment of expected yields and purities that could be achieved industrially, and helped establish this process as the only effective and scalable method that has so far been developed. The project has resulted in three published journal articles and three others currently under review or in preparation. The project formed the foundation for continued research in this area by the Algal Processing Group at the University of Melbourne, and has helped form new collaborations with partners in Australia, USA and India.
Halim R, Webley PA, Martin GJO. 2016. The CIDES Process: fractionation of concentrated microalgal paste for co-production of biofuel, nutraceuticals, and high-grade protein feed. Algal Research - in press.
Yap BHJ, Dumsday GJ, Scales PJ, Martin GJO. 2015. Energy evaluation of algal cell disruption by high pressure homogenization. Bioresource Technology 184:280-285.
Yap BHJ, Martin GJO, Scales PJ. 2016. Rheological manipulation of flocculated algal slurries to achieve high solids processing. Algal Research - in press.