Microalgae isolated by Portuguese researchers can produce biodiesel

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Researchers at the Center for Marine Sciences (CCMAR) at the University of Algarve (UAlg) have been able to isolate microalgae from Ria Formosa waters, which may be used in the food industry and also in biodiesel production.

João Varela, one of the three researchers who developed this work, explained to the Lusa agency that these microalgae were isolated in a laboratory environment, from coastal waters of the Algarve from the Ria Formosa, and may also have application in the treatment of wastewater.

The CCMAR researcher explained that the microalgae were found through the use of a technique that is usually used in medicine and “allows searching thousands and thousands of cells in minutes for a certain characteristic”, which in this case was to be “Rich in bio oils, commonly called lipids”.

“These microalgae showed through microscopic processes that it actually produces large amounts of lipids, we also synthesized biodiesel and we verified that the quality of this biodiesel is much higher than that of most of the microalgae currently used commercially,” he said.

João Varela also added that commercial microalgae, “normally used in aquaculture”, require large quantities of polyunsaturated fatty acids, but stressed that “this is not good for biodiesel, because biodiesel cannot be unstable at the level of presence Oxygen”, factors that lead to a higher probability of oxidation.

“Biodiesel has to be stable and cannot be oxidized in the presence of air,” he added, stressing that what is sought in this case are microalgae “less likely to undergo oxidation” and explained that the one isolated has ” Microalgae that currently exists in industry “.

The next step will be to “try to adapt it for industrial use”, in a partnership with the “recently inaugurated Microalgae Production Unit (Algafarm), considered the largest set of closed-loop photobioreactors in Europe” Investment of around 15 million euros, made by the cement company Secil, to “develop technologies to mitigate the impact of CO2 release, due to its activity”.

João Varela also warned that “there are no methods of producing microalgae that allow to compete with petrodiesel” and, for this reason, it is important to find other applications for the use of isolated microalgae.

The researcher said that “the production of rations or foodstuffs for human consumption as other ways to value the isolated microalgae and gave as some examples, the application that is currently being made of other microalgae” in cakes, codfish or even products like food supplements”.

João Varela said that the microalga in question has already been tested in effluents from wastewater treatment plants (WWTP) and has also proved to be “robust enough and necessary not only to grow under these conditions but also to treat wastewater which, with normal processes, cannot be treated”.

“The microalga is not sensitive to antibiotics that, due to human consumption, go to wastewater and kill bacteria”, which are normally used to treat these effluents, he concluded.

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