Algae as a Protein Supplier
The growth of the worlds’ population continues apace, and with it the demand for food. Better pesticides could control against loss of crops, but food shortages are actually due to there being less and less agricultural and farm land. So food production remains insufficient. This is particularly true in the developing countries, where food supply is neither guaranteed nor sufficient.
Whole continents are going hungry, and it is with this in mind that we should discuss measures for a higher food production, to help improve this situation. The goal should be to develop highly-efficient production systems, which are environmentally-friendly at the same time.
The industrial production of microalgae fulfils both conditions having – in comparison to non-marine plants – a highly-efficient production rate, and needing less land, (land which, we will remember, is also unsuitable for regular farming). Added to this, marine microalgae do not consume valuable fresh water supplies.
Phytoplankton is now used as a dietary supplement by consumers in the Western world. Manufacturers of supplements produced on a plankton basis containing omega 3 fatty acids tell of sales figures which have gone through the roof in recent years. Antibacterial and antiviral substances can also be extracted from microalgae. Furthermore, our daily protein requirement can be satisfied by the consumption of foodstuffs based on dried microalgae.
Phytolutions is developing new, more efficient procedures for extracting and gathering of microalgae for the production of dietary supplements and foodstuffs.
Algae as a Basis for Biofuels
Demand for renewable energy is steadily increasing, and biomass, as a basis for bioenergy production, offers a very promising approach to cope with this rise in demand. Economic returns aside, biofuels address at least two of our basic ecological concerns.
How biofuels work to reduce the impact on the environment
Firstly, they offer sustainability of supply: the fossil fuels we use are finite and will be depleted in the near future, but the resources for biofuels can regenerate over the course of a few months or years. Secondly, biofuels act to reduce climate-damaging greenhouse gases. The ultimate goal of using biofuels is to achieve CO2 neutrality. This means that in the combustion of biofuels only as much climate-damaging CO2 emissions are emitted into the atmosphere, as the plant – being the basis of the biofuel – has taken from the atmosphere during its growth.
Yet substituting crude oil supply with biofuel initially seems to exacerbate certain existing conflicts between climate protection and the protection of water, soil and biodiversity: competition over cultivated land will still exist whether it be for either energy plant growth or for the production of agricultural foodstuffs. Consequently, according to the current development status, more biomass and bioenergy means the cultivation of so-called energy plants requiring a growing proportion of land which has up till now been used for farming. In fact, highly-productive microalgae can be cultivated on smaller areas formerly unsuitable for growth and this biomass can be efficiently converted into fuels or platform chemicals. This technology makes a practical contribution to the friendly and resource-efficient handling of the environment, and offers clear economic potential at the same time.
Leaders in our field:
According to New Scientist Prof. Dr. Laurenz Thomsen from the Phytolution’s team succeeded in 2004 for the first time in the world in converting microalgae biomass into biodiesel. Since then, Phytolutions has consistently remained at the forefront of this technology.
Algae as Building Material and as Platform Chemicals
CO2 Storage: a solution to the immediate dangers of climate change
It is the ultimate challenge for the human race: serious, irreversible and unpredictable consequences of climate change can only be prevented if we keep the global temperature increase below 2°C. If they remain unchecked, CO2 emissions into this precarious environment will further complicate interactions in our delicately-balanced atmosphere. The human race is largely to blame for this predicted temperature rise, since our lifestyle causes carbon dioxide and other climate gases to be emitted in unnaturally large quantities.
In the short term, renewable energy cannot satisfy our growing demand for electricity and fuel. For the next few decades, or until renewable energies are produced in quantities large enough to meet this demand, fossil fuels will still be needed. CO2 storage could help reduce our CO2 emissions considerably. One way of doing this is by waste-gas separation, condensing the gas and sequestering it for a time in geological formations. But microalgae also offer efficient CO2 storage, since biomass can be converted into building material.
Green chemistry offers sustainable development with renewable resources
Sustainable development has become the highest goal of this century. In the search to achieve a new, sustainable chemistry, renewable resources will be of unique significance.
Renewable resources as a share of total resource consumption by the chemical industry in Germany and in the USA currently adds up to approximately 10%. A study by the US National Research Council estimates that 25% of all organic chemicals will be produced from renewable resources by 2020, rising to as much as 90% by 2090.
A plant produces biomass from water and atmospheric carbon dioxide by photosynthesis, out of which renewable resources, such as vegetable oils and starch, are being extracted in a more or less pure form. After further processing and treatment, the basic ingredients, such as glycerine, fatty alcohol and glucose, can be extracted by chemical reactions. Further processing of these basic ingredients delivers useful products such as, for example, tensides, cosmetics and washing agents, among other industrial products.
This is similar to how microalgae is used for bio fuels, the decisive advantage of microalgae being that it involves ‘green chemistry’: the production of platform chemicals has a remarkably higher production rate, regarding time and surface, compared to non-marine plants. Moreover, due to the high cell division rate of the microalgae it is much easier than in non-marine plants to achieve desired characteristics and substances by breeding and thus maximise the scientific results.