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Bioprocess modelling toolkit to explore options for algal biorefining

Phytofutures and University College London (UCL) used their ABSIG SPARK Plus award to create a bioprocess modelling toolkit to explore options for algal biorefining.

Phytofutures have devised a microalgal process which upgrades brine waste and converts it into algal biomass. Microalgae thus plays an ecosystems services role in both supporting nutrient recovery and recycling, as well as provisioning through biorefining of biomass. However, downstream recovery and refining of algae presents a significant process challenge, both in terms of cost and energy consumption. Optimising the trade-off between performance, operating cost and environmental footprint are crucial for process sustainability. Downstream processing is a high-risk area for bioprocess industries due to the high capital expenditure involved. In particular for low-value products such as bioenergy, economical processes are essential. Modelling tools have been applied to strategic decisions in the development and manufacture of upstream and downstream processes for biopharmaceuticals and cell therapies, and this project investigated how to apply this approach for microalgae, specifically Phaeodactylum tricornutum, a marine diatom. 


This project created a decisional support tool to improve upon previous attempts to evaluate algal processes, by designing the model holistically, using upstream process data from Phytofutures, and collating process data from literature. The model was then used to evaluate key bioprocess decisions e.g. use of flocculation in terms of how these might influence the cost of DSP per kg of final product. 


Story source: ABSIG SPARK Plus Award report provided by the project partners

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