Development of bio-plastic production technologies from microalgae

Developing industrial processes for sustainable production of bio-plastics from microalgae. In addition, possibilities to produce other products like fibers for yarns, ropes and nets will be explored. The project covers the whole process, from optimised biomass production to product development and exploitation.

This will be achieved by developing:

  • a bio-based industrial platform for sustainable production and recovery of hydrocarbons and carbohydrates from algae;

  • sustainable conversion of microalgae products into renewable bio-plastics. 


Bio-based economy research and limitations

To increase sustainability and reduce dependency of fossil fuels the bio-based economy is booming. Research is conducted to find alternatives to generate energy, chemicals and recyclable materials from biological origin. However, competition for food and natural forests may occur if crops are used as raw materials.

Culturing algae is extremely sustainable compared to conventional farming

Microalgae contain similar raw materials as traditional crops: high-quality oils, proteins, pigments as well as hydrocarbons and sugars. Culturing microalgae has several advantages over conventional farming:

  • algae don’t need agricultural land, therefore there is no competition for food or farmland
  • microalgae have  much higher yields per hectare and are extremely efficient with water
  • algae may grow on nutrients from residual streams, like waste water and CO2.        


Algae produce a variety of base materials that can be used for bio-plastics production. Most important are carbohydrates and hydrocarbons. The algae Botryococcus Botryococcus braunii has the capacity to produce and excrete these materials into the medium. Using novel technologies, these compounds will be extracted from the medium, leaving algae cultures intact. These chemicals are converted into bio-plastics to replace oil-based plastics.
The project  focuses on slow growing green alga Botryococcus braunii, the only algae known to produce hydrocarbons. Growth will be improved by:

  • improving growth conditions;
  • produce UV-induced mutants and select on quick growth;
  • incorporation of genes from quick growing algae into B. braunii.
This project is an EU project coordinated by Wageningen UR.