ΒΙΟΝΑΜΑ

DEVELOPMENT OF NANOMAGNETIC BIO-REACTOR FOR THE CONTINUOUS PRODUCTION OF ΜICRO-ALGAE BIOMASS AND HIGH ADDED VALUE PRODUCTS

The consumption of nutritional supplements is constantly increasing worldwide and their production in the most natural ways and raw materials is a field of intensive research and business activity.

The scope of the project is the design and development of a Magnetic-Photo-Bio-Reactor for the production and harvesting of microalgae as well as of processes of recovery and modification of products with high added value from the produced biomass.

The production of high added value products with more cost-effective and environmentally friendly technologies is a modern field of intensive research. Microalgae are sources for the production of bioactive compounds with wide application in the pharmaceutical and cosmetics industries.

This collaborative project seeks an interdisciplinary partnership between the fields of chemistry, biology, engineering and biotechnology in order to improve microalgae cultivation and extraction techniques of high added value natural products.

The cultivation will be carried out by methods of magnetic nanotechnology, while the extraction of the products by the use of holistic production methods and combined techniques, such as super-critical extraction.

The expected results are of interest to primary production and manufacturing industries, consumer brands, SMEs, research & technology centres and universities.

The objectives of the project are

A. The production of magnetically modified algae

Magnetic Nanoparticles (MNP) will be introduced into the cytoplasm of microalgae by electroporation to transfuse them magnetic properties. This process requires a generator pulses with potentail difference, which form temporary pores in the cell membrane, through which the MNS are inserted into the cytoplasm. The technique of electroporation is widely applied in the field of biological and biomedical research to transfer molecules to the protoplasm of cells.

B. Design and construction of Magnetic Photo-Bio-Reactor (MPBR)

The MPBR (see figure) consists of an array of magnetic disks in which the magnetically modified cells of microalgae will be immobilized. The water will circulate continuously so that the immobilized cells are covered by a thin layer through which the exchange of gases (CO2, O2) and the supply of essential nutrients will be allowed. The design will ensure the largest magnetic surface area in the smallest volume and improve the growth and viability of the cells, thus reducing the cost of biomass production. In addition, the small size of the MFA makes it portable and allows the production of microalgae even in a closed environment with the use of LED lamps.

C. Extraction of products.

In addition to extraction using conventional solvents, the technology of super-critical extraction (SE) using CO2 will be applied. With this, the breakage of the cell membrane for the release of the intra-cellular content is achieved, and then the extraction of the components, that are of interest to the project, is achieved. The use of (SE), in addition to its high selectability, ensures the quality of the products thanks to the avoidance of thermal stress, and the easy and economical removal of CO2 with a simple release.

The possibility of enzymatic modification for the production of molecules of nutritional and pharmaceutical interest in non-conventional systems will also be studied. The project is particularly innovative in terms of the microalpeed cultivation system (MPBR) for the extraction of high quality and high added value products, placing them in the "state-of-the-art" internationally and constituting a global innovation. Indeed, there is no other application of a system similar to the MPBR for the cultivation of microalgae worldwide. According to the preliminary results of the project's research team of the project, it is expected that the cost of biomass production will be reduced from 5-12 €/kg to <0,5 €/kg, due to:

  • Combined use of magnetically modified microalgae cells and magnetic disks with a large usable area that ensures fast and economical harvesting.
  • Reduced energy consumption for stirring, dewatering and and biomass collection compared to that in conventional bioreactors (open pods and tubular systems).
  • Application of super-critical CO2 extraction for rapid, efficient and economical extraction of high-value products (carotenoids, astaxanthin, polyunsaturated fatty acids, polysaccharides);

Impact

The European Union has adopted an ambitious strategy for the development of Bio-economy in Europe. It is based on the innovative use of sustainable biological resources to meet the growing need for food, energy and water.

In addition, the European policy on aquaculture activities has set itself the objective of reducing the amount of water needed for both cultivation and transformation processes.

In this context, microalgae and other marine biomass species are an emerging biological source of great importance thanks to the possible applications they can find in various fields, including the food industry.

The value of the global marine biotechnology market in 2015 was €4.1 billion with an expected annual growth of 10%.

The present technology, beyond the fields of cosmetics, nutritional supplements and the pharmaceutical market, can be applied to other sectors as well (eg energy, environmental protection).

Indeed, a recent cost analysis study focused on open basins, horizontal tubular PBRs and flat-surface PBRs showed that the cost of producing microalgae biomass including dehydration was 4.95, 4.15 and 5.96 € per kilogram, respectively. The factors examined were irradiation conditions, mixing, photosynthetic efficiency of the systems, the average cost and cost of CO2. The use of exhaust gases from industrial sources can reduce the cost of CO2 - which is the most expensive consumable - to zero prices if the exhaust gases are readily available.

Markets having a growing demand and with an ever-increasing number of customers, have a huge margin for commercial exploitation worldwide. For example, the astaxanthin market is estimated to grow at an annual growth rate of 8.02% from 2017 and reach $814.1 million by 2022.

As a result of participation in this programme, the partners will be able to channel its results to the global market. The dissemination of new technology due to the possession of copyright can unfold new investment routes in dynamic markets for new products and processes.

Participants:

The project will be implemented by the small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) AKMELOGI and Theracell and the Laboratories of Biotechnology and Thermodynamics & Transport Phenomena of the School of the Chemical Engineering School of NTUA:

AKMELOGI is a start-up SME possessing high expertise and know-how in developing and manufacturing high-tech machinery. The company is involved in the field of surface engineering, machine tool manufacturing, and the development of new tools for structure optimization, with the prospect of becoming a major player in industrial research through the introduction and consolidation of its innovations. AKMELOGI develops industrial solutions, using state-of-the-art technologies, thanks to the multiyear scientific activity carried out by a team of competent engineers, researchers, and academics.

mirtec

Theracell biotechnology company has specialized technology and know-how in the analysis, characterization and commercial exploitation of medical and biotechnological products.

Theracell is one of the most modern and innovative biotechnology companies in Europe. The main concern of the company is regenerative medicine and biotechnology, stem cells and cell therapies. The company's mission is to provide innovative, safe, effective and affordable regenerative biotechnology products and cell therapies to patients. The company's vision is to become one of the leading regenerative biotechnology companies in Europe. The company's operations are guided by the desire to develop innovative products that will help people live a healthier life. We want to do this through scientific excellence and real innovation, operating with the highest standards of integrity, expanding access to products and services, and employing a dedicated, self-motivated, innovative and proactive workforce, that diligently applies its knowledge, talent and experience for the benefit of human health.

The laboratories of NTUA have significant know-how in the cultivation of microorganisms / microalgae, in enzyme technology, in the development of enzymatic synthesis processes of products of high added value in conventional and non-conventional systems, and in the processes of separation of products by super-critical extraction (SE).

The Laboratory of Thermodynamics & Transport Phenomena (LTTP) of the Chemical Engineering School, NTUA has a multiyear international presence in the field of research and is active in the sectors of thermodynamic modeling and experimental measurements, modeling of systems and processes as well as in the design, optimization and energy integration of industrial processes. The laboratory has the appropriate infrastructure and a highly experienced and well-trained staff. It has also shown remarkable scientific work, which is reflected in numerous publications and announcements in international scientific journals and conferences, as well as in its successful participation in funded research projects.

The Laboratory of Biotechnology (LB) of NTUA operates in the Technical University campus of Zografou in the Building of the Chemical Engineering School. The scientific team of the laboratory is constantly evolving in size and experience, conducting internationally recognized research activity in subjects such as microbial and enzyme technology, bioenergy, biocathy, and metabolic mechanics - bioinformatics. The laboratory has the appropriate infrastructure and a highly experienced and well-trained staff. It has also shown remarkable scientific work, which is reflected in numerous publications and participations in international scientific journals and conferences, as well as in its successful participation in funded research projects.