System Analysis of Algae Biorefinery

The biobased economy is emerging due to undeniable fact of a limited amount of conventional resources of energy and food. Recently, biobased products from microalgae gained increased attention in the field of biobased economy and biotechnology. Microalgae feedstock is promising as a potential substitute for fossil and animal based sources of energy and food. To commercialize the algal biomass as an agricultural commodity , the production costs should be decreased while the yield is increased. Algae biorefinery refers to the conversion of algae biomass into a range of valuable biobased products and energy.

Highlight of the past year

During last year the library of the simulation models for feasible unit operations has been updated. In each model the characteristic of the flow streams like flow rate, algae concentration and internal processes and also relations inside each unit have been included in order to quantify accurate energy consumption and yield production. By linking energy and mass balance based models for each unit operation together, the performance of different process chains (scenarios) can be quantified. Production of lipids, proteins and carbohydrates and energy requirement are being addressed via different process design plots.

One of the main aims was to develop and demonstrate a simulation environment for the prediction of the performance of a planned algae biorefinery chain with respect to economics. To fulfil the mentioned demand a user interface for easy application of models is  developed. The graphical interface takes advantage of the computer's graphics capabilities to make an interactive program for which it is not necessary to learn complex command languages(MATLAB).

Scenarios for possible and potential algae biorefinery are defined with respect to physical and chemical constrains in the processing chains. A product tree is created to have more insight about the potential of each designed process chain.

Possible thesis project

  • Recovery and recycle of by streams in algae biorefienry
  • Chemical potential of algae biorefinery by keeping the functionality of three groups of products lipids, proteins and carbohydrates
  • Economic and cost estimation of different algae biorefinery plants (upscaling)
  • Sensitivity analysis of algae biorefinery
  • LCA analysis of algae biorefinery