Nutrient flows

After carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus are the two main constituent elements of microalgae. These elements are central to problems of eutrophication in today’s natural environment. They are the focus of attention in the context of water purification processes. They are required, finally, in abundant quantities for microalgae culture. The price of nitrogenous and phosphorus fertilizers will almost certainly rise in the years to come, along with higher energy costs and the rarefaction of natural resources.

The aim of this program is to develop approaches and tools to improve our knowledge of microalgal requirements of nitrogen and phosphorus. Laboratory research tends therefore to characterize maximum capacities for absorption (the notion of ‘luxury’ consumption) and minimum nitrogen and phosphorus requirements, as well as how the nutritive status of microalgae, and environmental conditions impact absorption parameters.

In the context of our ongoing research on the concept of colimitation, we are planning studies on how these two elements interact, and on their repercussions on microalgae growth and composition.

Due to the key importance of nitrogen and phosphorus in the physiology of microalgae, the research program has a very wide spectrum of applications, from balanced fertilization of cultures destined for industrial exploitation, to water purification and treatment of certain waste materials, by selecting of species most suited to these ends, through to a better understanding of the way ecosystems operate.