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Microalgae and biofuels: A promising partnership?

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Microalgae and biofuels: A promising partnership?

Post  Admin on Thu Aug 11, 2011 4:56 pm

Microalgae and biofuels: A promising partnership?

References and further reading may be available for this article. To view references and further reading you must purchase this article.


F. Xavier Malcata1, 2, 3,

1 ISMAI-Instituto Superior da Maia, Avenida Carlos Oliveira Campos, 4475-690 Avioso S. Pedro, Portugal

2 CIMAR/CIIMAR-Centro Interdisciplinar de Investigação Marinha e Ambiental, Rua dos Bragas n° 289, 4050-123 Porto, Portugal

3 Instituto de Tecnologia Química e Biológica, Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Avenida da República, P-2780-157 Oeiras, Portugal


Available online 2 July 2011.

Microalgae have much higher lipid yields than those of agricultural oleaginosous crops, and they do not compromise arable land. Despite this, current microalga-based processes suffer from several constraints pertaining to the biocatalyst and the bioreactor, which hamper technologically and economically feasible scale-up. Here, we briefly review recent active research and development efforts worldwide, and discuss the most relevant shortcomings of microalgal biofuels. This review goes one step further relative to related studies, because it tackles otherwise scarcely mentioned issues – for example, heterotrophic versus autotrophic metabolism, alkane versus glyceride synthesis, conduction versus bubbling of CO2, and excretion versus accumulation of lipids. Besides promising solutions that have been hypothesized and arise from multidisciplinary approaches, we also consider less conventional ones. Microalgae and biofuels hold indeed a promising partnership, but a fully competitive technology is not expected to be available before the end of this decade, because the need for one order of magnitude increase in productivity requires development of novel apparatuses and transformed cells.

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