One of barriers that keep the cost of algal products from being competitive is cultivation. But in the near future, these costs could go down with research from scientists in at the University of Cologne. Professor Michael Melkonian, an algae specialist, along with his team have developed a new method that could make harvesting algae easier and thus reduce the costs of the algal products. The findings were published in the journal Trends in Biotechnology.
Using research on photobioreactors as the basis, the team used a “Porous Substrate Bioreactor” (PSBR), also known as the twin-layer system, to separate algae from a nutrient solution by means of a porous reactor surface on which the microalgae are trapped in biofilms. What is different is their procedure is that it reduces the amount of liquid needed in comparison to the current technology, which cultivates algae in suspensions, by a factor of up to one hundred. The PSBR procedure thus allows for a significant reduction in energy and for an increase in the portfolio of algae that can be cultivated.
Current successes in PSBR development and the rise in interest in this technology in recent years could signal a turn in the conception of future photobioreactors in microalgae biotechnology.