Biorefinery

Develop mild separation processes that enable us to obtain a plethora of valuable biomolecules from biomass (e.g. algae, seaweed and (cyano) bacteria). By taking cell disentanglement, mild extraction/separations and product functionality into account we are developing processes with a positive economic value and ecological impact.

Mission

Research and develop new separation technologies and apply these on a variety of fermentative biomasses, thereby producing new biological products.

Expertise

Selective disentanglement

Disentanglement of the microalgae and seaweed cells to obtain functional ingredients needs to be done in a mild way. To investigate and fine-tune the release of the different components from within the cytoplasm and from specific cellular organelles, new technologies such as Electric or steam pulses, possibly combined with enzymes that degrade cell walls and cell membranes, are being developed. These techniques can be used to gradually release cell components present in the cytoplasm, making them available for further purification.

Mild extraction & fractionation processes

Our research focuses on applicability of novel extraction technologies to selectively recover lipids, proteins, carbohydrates and carotenoids out of micro-algae and seaweed. While performing component extractions it is of importance to maintain the functionality of these and other compounds. Once these components have been extracted further fractionations might need to be performed in order to reach a minimum amount of purity that is required to implement the components in an industrial setting. Preferred fractionation techniques usually involve novel functional matrices (e.g. membranes, beads).

Integration biomass production and product extraction concepts

Using micro-organisms such as yeast and cyanobacteria it is possible to produce a wide variety of chemicals (alcohols, isoprenoids, carboxylic acids, alkanes and others). However, accumulation of these in the media of the micro-organisms can result in product inhibition. By continuously removing the components from the growing media, higher volumetric productivities and yields can be achieved. Depending on the organism and physical properties of the molecule a preferred recovery strategy can be chosen.

Integrated biorefinery concepts

Single unit operations (e.g. harvesting, cell disruption, extraction and fractionation) in the biorefinery field of fermentative streams (e.g. microalgae, cyanobacteria) are commonly developed. Further integration of two or more biorefinery unit operations (e.g. combination of harvesting with cell disruption or cell disruption with extraction) might improve the isolation of the different components, decrease cycle time and lower energy costs and create the path to a more continuous processing concept in the near future.