Photosynthetic microalgal can have growth rates which surpass biomass generation by higher plants. Depending on the microalgal stain and the culturing conditions, the algal biomass can contain highly interesting compounds for potential biotechnological applications. Our research aims at identifying strains which are characterized by fast & easy growth and can produce valuable compounds, e.g. high amounts of fatty acids. Microalgae from algae collections as well as new isolates from the environment are investigated.
Microalgal strains in liquid culture
The production of biogas from biomass is gaining increasing importance world wide. The knowledge of the biological processes which take place in a biogas production facility is limited today, therefore research in this field is needed and important to improve the biomethane production process.
In this context, the department for Algae Biotechnology & Bioenergy of the University of Bielefeld investigates utilisation of microalgae as alternative biomass for biomethane production and possible synergetic effects of biomass pretreatment and fermentation. In 2006, a cooperation with the public utility company Stadtwerke Bielefeld (http://www.stadtwerke-bielefeld.de) was established, leading to the foundation of the local consortium Bioenergy OWL.
One of the biomethane production setups
The development of clean, sustainable and economically viable energy supply for the future is one of the most urgent challenges of our generation, given that oil production will decrease in the future. Hydrogen, produced by microalgae, could be an alternative energy carrier because of a it´s potentially high energy density and environmentally clean combustion, resulting in pure water.
Biosolar hydrogen production with Chlamydomonas reinhardtii cultures in test reactors
In our research project we use Wild Type and patented, high H2 producing mutants of Chlamydomonas reinhardtii to address the main rate limiting steps of algal H2 production. These rate-limiting steps are:
Microalgal strains for liquid biofuel production should ideally show very high biomass productivities, efficient biosynthesis of lipids, be easy to harvest and be accessible to metabolic engineering strategies. Furthermore, important characteristics for renewable liquid biofuel production include the degree of saturation of fatty acids and the proportion of triacylglycerol. Both parameters can be highly influenced by various factors,e.g. the presence or absence of specific nutrients depending on the respective strains. We investigate microalgal species regarding their lipid profiles to identify species with superior characteristics, which can be promising candidates for multiple future applications, e.g. for biofuels production or the food industry.
Microalgal lipid extraction and purification
The green algae Botryococcus braunii is capable of the production and excretion of high quantities of long-chain hydrocarbons as well as polysaccharides. The main objective of the SPLASH project is to use genomics and systems biology to develop metabolic engineering strategies for hydrocarbon and (exo)-polysaccharide production in green algae. The information will further be used for the development of cultivation concepts, improved growth and specific product enhancement. To gain insight in the expression of key genes involved in the hydrocarbon and polysaccharides biosynthesis and excretion, together with our project partners we are investigating the changes in transcripts, proteins, and metabolite levels of two B. braunii races A and B, grown in fully controlled photobioreactor systems.
The main aim of this investigation is to link differences in metabolome and proteome profiles to differences in genetic background, transcripts, growth conditions and biomass production, providing thereby clear understanding of the cellular biochemical processes underlying hydrocarbon and polysaccharide biosynthesis. Furthermore the data will be used as input for the modelling for natural strains of B. braunii, but also for modified organisms such as yeast and algae (e.g. C. reinhardtii).