Microalgae biorefinery

Microalgae biorefinery

Microalgae have a great potential to produce and accumulate a wide range of valuable components. Wageningen Food & Biobased Research develops processes for separating microalgal components into different fractions. These can subsequently be converted into valuable products for the food, feed, cosmetics and pharmaceutical markets.

Technologies and expertise

The microalgae biorefinery approach was inspired by the crude oil refinery concept. This interesting approach focuses on completely valorising the target resource, and has a promising economic impact while remaining environmentally sound.

Wageningen Food & Biobased Research is a pioneer in microalgae biorefinery technologies and expertise. Many unit operation sequences have been explored, developed, optimised and adapted to the specificities of microalgae in terms of diversity and morphology. Those sequences consist of chains of unit operations which pre-treat, extract and fractionate many valuable components present in microalgae, such as high-quality proteins, fatty acids, pigments, carbohydrates and fine chemicals.

With our partners, we are laying the groundwork for a microalgae biorefinery that respects the principles of sustainability and that can be upscaled to pilot scale. Indeed, while this technology is still in its infancy, the current dynamic can make it an industrial reality within a few years.

Valorising interesting components

Aquatic biomass can grow on non-arable land and does not compete with crops for food production. Microalgae contain valuable components, the amount of which can be tweaked by controlling the growth conditions. We adjust the biorefinery approach for the compositions of different microalgae species, a process that also depends on the various growth conditions of the microalgae.

Wageningen Food & Biobased Research can analyse and identify the different components produced by microalgae. In addition, we can isolate the most interesting component for the client and we can valorise other components to achieve an economically feasible process. We also take process design, such as determination of the best methods to extract and fractionate the components into account. Furthermore, we develop processes for incorporating the components in materials and products.