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Developments in microalgal harvesting: Genetically engineered
auto/bio-flocculation. 28

Developments in microalgal harvesting
biotechnology: Genetically engineered auto/bio-flocculation.

Harvesting microalgae at large scales
represents a significant barrier to economically feasible production of algal biomass
for liquid fuels and other useful products. Some estimates approximate microalgal
harvesting costs at 30%-50% of total production (energy use and capital
investment). Seeking a cost effective cell harvesting technology, we have
generated transgenic Chlamydononas reinhardtii that can autoflocculate
(or “bioflocculate”) via heterologous protein expression. In layman’s terms: we
have produced prototype strains of genetically modified unicellular algae that
can harvest themselves. Thus, there is no need to add any sort of chemical or biological flocculant. Flocculation is carried out by engineered cellular mechanisms. We have also generated recombinant expression vectors
allowing for genetically induced flocculation once the culture has reached
stationary phase. Our strains are experimental in nature and are not intended
for use in the field. We are currently trying to publish our results in a peer
reviewed research journal. We have also tried to patent this technology;
however, Saphire energy has already patented an advanced version of genetically
induced autoflocculation technology (although we took a different technical
approach).

I just wanted to let the online
community of algal enthusiasts know about this exiting technology as it has the
capacity to eliminate a significant fraction of production costs associated
with microalgal culturing processes.  Keep
in mind, however, this technology is likely a few (or many) years away from
actual implementation or field readiness…

I also wanted to throw this idea out so engineers and designers can start to rethink how this type of harvesting
technology can influence bioreactor and culture system design.

I’m not sure anyone knows how
microalgae will be harvested ten or fifteen years from now. That being said, I’m
guessing genetically induced autoflocculation may be the future gold standard
of microalgal harvesting technology.   

-Prototroph

Fri July 15 2011 12:58:55 AM by Prototroph 2726 views

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