Warsaw University of Technology students grow microalgae

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By Milthon Lujan

Production of biofuels, cosmetics, drugs – for all of this you can use algae, organisms mostly autotrophic, aquatic and full of nutrients. Warsaw University of Technology students have built equipment for culturing them. The installation testing has just begun.

Algae are a very diverse group of organisms. They share the lack of developed tissues, and in most cases also autotrophy and aquatic life. Algae contain many nutrients, due to which scientists continue looking for new uses for these organisms.
Warsaw University of Technology students from the Chemical and Process Engineering Science Club have built the Equipment for Testing Pressure Methods of Culturing Microalgae for Industrial Use. “We want to use microalgae primarily for processing carbon dioxide after separating it from the flue gas, but also for the production of biomass and fatty acids, which are used for biodiesel production” – explained the project coordinator Michał Wojtalik in a release sent to PAP. These, however, are not all the applications of algae. They can also be used to produce cosmetics and drugs.
Students are now beginning to test their installation. It enables microalgae culturing under a pressure up to 10 bar and allows to monitor the parameters (temperature, pressure, light exposure and pH). “It is also possible to take samples for periodic testing of microbial biomass concentration. The equipment is mobile, it has its own light and gas source” – informs the Warsaw University of Technology. The algae do not stick to the walls of vessels and containers in which they grow, making the whole process easier to carry out.
Algae grown by Warsaw University of Technology students are special. “We have selected one special strain isolated in Germany. We have to proliferate these algae, and then implant them in the reactors” – explained Michał Wojtalik.
The idea to culture, and then study algae, was conceived two years ago during the practices that the members of the Chemical and Process Engineering Science Club participated in at the company Total. “Together with a friend we had a presentation on standards for the content of bio-components in fuels” – said Michał Wojtalik. “These thresholds have been established by the European Union” – he added.
The students saw this as an opportunity. “The introduction of EU rules means that the demand for biofuels will increase. In the end, there will be a shortage. Young researchers have invented the technology that can solve this problem” – reads the Warsaw University of Technology release.
The creators of the culturing equipment from Warsaw University of Technology know that they are not the only ones working on obtaining biofuels and bio-components from algae. Big companies are also doing this. Michał Wojtalik emphasised, however, that the great strength of their project is an interdisciplinary team. In the group at Warsaw University of Technology there are people who have the knowledge of both process technology and cell culturing.
“We want to implement our project on a larger scale” – said Michał Wojtalik. “We would like to cooperate with an energy company and build a quarter-scale plant to finally prove the validity of this concept, but we will work on that only after we have the first results of our research” – he added.
Source: Science and Scholarship in Poland

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