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Algae for a sustainable future

Algae have a very high areal productivity, contain a wealth of ingredients and can be cultivated on infertile soil. Due to these reasons, they are considered the agricultural crop of the future. However, to get full value out of algae, sensible approaches in the biorefinery of algae are necessary.

Approaches that focus on opening the cell wall in such a way that the functionality of the ingredients remain intact and subsequently separate valuable fractions will safeguard the optimal valorization of algae biomass. TNO has set up an industrial consortium, named GAIA, together with algae producers and end-users of algae ingredients to focus on those approaches and make the application of algae ingredients feasible. In a large program together with industrial partners, TNO has gained important know-how in opening algae and separation of ingredients like proteins, oil and carbohydrates effectively on a lab scale. This know-how will be used for scaling up to an industrial pilot.

Which algae ingredients are useful?

Depending on the species and on the way they are grown, algae may contain proteins, lipids, carbohydrates and minor components (sterols, phycobiliproteins, astaxanthin, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids). These ingredients can be applied in:

  • Food (meat replacers, emulsifiers, thickeners, stabilisers, soluble fibres, vegetable oil, nutritional oils, surfactants, cholesterol lowering agents, vitamin precursors, antioxidants, foaming agents).
  • Feed (nutritious types of protein, soluble fibres).
  • Pet-food (nutritious types of protein, emulsifiers, thickeners, stabilisers, soluble fibres, vegetable oil, nutritional oils).
  • Chemical products (surfactants, coatings, oil, stabilisers, hydrophobic proteins as latex replacer, bio-plastics, plasticisers, oleoresins).
  • Pharmaceutical products (creams, antifungal/antimicrobial compounds, therapeutical proteins)

Added value to a bio-based economy

Together with the industrial partners, TNO is working on the application of sustainable innovations to achieve the transition to a bio-based economy. TNO uses its strength as an expert and director of innovation to realize sustainable chains of raw material from suppliers to end users.

Where are we?

In addition to the opening up of the algae cell wall, we are now able to separate algae ingredients on a laboratory scale. The next step will be taken to develop this process on a pilot scale. The mobile algae refining plant (named VALORIE:Versatile Algae On-site Raw Ingredient Extractor) will also be placed at different algea cultivation sites. Within the GAIA project there is still the opportunity for partners who are interested in using an algae fraction.

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Ir. Peter Geerdink

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Ir. Peter Geerdink

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