Characterization and improvement of thermo-tolerant microalgae from Bonaire

In this project we aim to understand and apply thermo-tolerance in microalgae. Process engineering is combined with biology and bioinformatics to answer our research questions.

Sustainable production of microalgae is best done at locations which offer high solar irradiance, constant climatological conditions and seawater availability. The Dutch Caribbean Island Bonaire offers these conditions. However, when growing microalgae in outdoor photobioreactors in warm regions under high light intensities, active cooling is required to prevent overheating of the systems. Cooling is energy-intensive and expensive. Therefore the focus of this NWO project is to reduce the cooling requirements of outdoor microalgae cultivation systems. This will be done through the selection, characterization and optimisation of high-temperature tolerant microalgae strains.

Approach and techniques

In this project bioprospecting of microalgae on Bonaire was followed by strain isolation, characterization and selection. Knowledge of microalgae behaviour under certain growth conditions is key to designing a successful process. The project splits up into three research lines which are worked on in Wageningen, the Netherlands.

  • The first research line involves characterization of kinetic model parameters in bioreactors, followed by scale-up to pilot scale;
  • The second research line focuses on the short term response towards temperature stress. Depending on the phase of the project the techniques used are: Bioreactor operation, HPLC analysis, GC analysis, RNA sequencing (Transcriptome analysis), enzymatic assays;
  • The third research line focuses on increasing the temperature tolerance of the isolated microalgae through directed evolution. Mutants will be characterized and compared to the wild-type strain for kinetics and molecular traits.


There are different topics available for BSc or MSc thesis within the project! If you are interested, please feel free to contact Robin Barten.