The objective was to produce a methyl-ester based biofuel from autotrophic microalgae. These can accumulate up to 50% of their dry weight in fatty acids, and this in turn means yields per hectare that are ten times higher than those of terrestrial oleaginous species. Prior to the project, no team in France had worked on using microalgae to produce fuel. It has brought together specialists in microalgae culture, physiology and utilisation, and experts in the optimization of biotechnology processes, in biofuels and extraction.
Microalgae exhibit numerous characteristics favourable to the production of fatty acids:
- Growth yields, and as a result, production quantities per hectare that are higher than those of terrestrial oleaginous species (from 20 to 75 m3 of oil per hectare, and per year, depending on the source),
- Higher photosynthetic yields,
- High-level metabolic plasticity allowing orientation of the biomanufacturing process toward certain fatty acids,
- Control of the nitrogen and phosphorus cycle by controlling the recycling of nutrients,
- Numerous sub-products offering good potential for added value,
- Exploitable technology in developing countries.
♦ As regards biogas production, the SYMBIOSE project aims to produce energy via a microalgae methanation process.
♦ The laboratory partners the SALINALGUE project working on the control of large-scale mass cultures of Dunaliella salina in an open environment on undeveloped salt marshes, and the biorefinement of Dunalliella to commercialize various bio-products: biodiesel, biogas, molecules with high added value (Beta-carotene, Omega 3…) and proteins for aquaculture feed.