Cultivation of microalgae for energy production is an alternative source of obtaining substances with high added value.
The identification of renewable sources for energy production is one of the hot topics of research in the world. One studied strand involves growing plants with high energy content, to be used (with or without pre-treatment) as fuel in the so called biomass power plants for the production of electricity and heat.
In this context, the search for alternatives for the production of biofuels from non-agricultural sources has identified biomass produced by microalgae as one of the most promising hypotheses. On this theme, a real worldwide race is underway, looking for the best technological solutions to industrialize this type of farming and make such an activity profitable. Based on these studies, a parallel strand was developed over the course of time, which studies ways to produce and extract substances with high added value from microalgae, that can be used in different sectors of the energy field.
This context of technological research includes the Ecotec Research Centre, who is studying the algal biomass cultures to identify innovative systems for the production of microalgae in closed reactors. Research in the field of microalgae was established in 2009 with a project funded entirely by private entities. The Ecotec Research Center is still pursuing its studies, with the purpose of bringing the innovative processes developed in the laboratory and pilot systems covered by patent to an industrial production phase.
After appropriate processing, with high added value can be derived from microalgae substances, such as:
- Biofuels: Long-chain hydrocarbons and esterified lipids, which can be used as oil fuel, biodiesel. Gasoline, hydrogen, biogas.
- Dietary Supplements: Seaweed meal as an ingredient and supplement in products for the food industry.
- Therapeutic Diagnostics: Production of polyunsaturated fatty acids with a high physiological value (eg, EPA, DHA, etc..), vitamin and protein supplement, compounds with high nutritional value, active ingredients with anticancer properties for the production of advanced diagnostic (eg. phycobiliproteins for the production of biosensors, etc.).
- Pigments: b-carotene as food colouring and dietary supplement (provitamin A). xanthophylls, phycobilins for diagnostics, cosmetics and analytical reagents.
- Sources of Fine Chemical: Glycerol used in food, beverages, cosmetics, pharmaceutical industry. Fatty acids, lipids, waxes, sterols, hydrocarbons, amino acids, enzymes and natural vitamins (C, E, provitamin A). Polysaccharides such as rubbers that can increase viscosity and ionic exchanges.
- Feedingstuff: Production of algal strains for hatchery and production bivalve molluscs, production of supplements and pigments (eg astaxanthin, etc.): Animal food supplements.