Prof. Olaf Kruse

Algae Biotech Group
The University of Bielefeld, Germany
Phone: +49 521 1065611
Fax: +49 521 89036
Email: olaf.kruse@uni-bielefeld.de

Olaf Kruse

About Olaf

Prof Kruse’s is a specialist in the systematic analysis of light signaling mechanisms in green algae and the translation of this knowledge to the development of new ‘2nd generation’ biofuel systems based on microalgae. Some of the most significant contributions to his field of research include:

Molecular genetics of plant adaptation to its light environment: Prof Kruse has elucidated key mechanisms that regulate light capture, including the underlying signalling mechanisms in Chlamydomonas reinhardti and their ability to adapt to changing light levels (e.g. Plant Cell 2005). This information is extensively used to investigate other members of the plant kingdom.

Enhanced light capture efficiency: Two light harvesting antenna mutants (Stm3LR3 and Stm6Glc4T7) with improved light to chemical energy (biomass) conversion efficiencies have been developed (Mussgnug et al 2007, Beckmann et al 2009) with CI Hankamer. The significance of these cell lines is that their improved light conversion efficiencies improve biomass yields

Patented high-H2 producing cell line: Prof Kruse has been granted a US patent on the high-hydrogen producing green algae cell line (Stm6) with CI Hankamer (Patent No: US7371560; Kruse et al 2005).  Patents also pending in the EU, Japan and Australia. This cell-line uses solar energy to produce H2 from H2O. It is the highest H2 producing cell line reported and the platform for further development (e.g. for improved efficiency, and the conversion of sugar to H2; Doebbe et al 2007).

Biochemical and industrial feasibility studies of the Solar Bio-H2 process: A detailed biochemical feasibility study was successfully completed with international experts. It demonstrates that economic viability of the Solar Bio-H2 process is technically feasible. This was supported by an additional industrial feasibility study evaluating 2nd generation microlgal biofuel production processes. This study concluded that upon successful completion of the technical milestones the Solar Bio-H2 process has the potential to achieve economic viability.

Research Focus

In current biotechnology research, microalgae play a critical role for the production of food, chemical and fuels. They are used as important catalysts for bio-degradation approaches and their biomass is converted to pharmaceutical products.

Microalgae are the most promising organisms for conversion of solar energy into CO2-neutral biofuels such as biodiesel and biomethane. Certain green algae, such as C. reinhardtii, have evolved the additional ability to convert solar energy into H2 derived from water splitting.

Our research is based on recently-constructed high-H2 production C. reinhardtii mutants Stm6 and Stm6glc4 (Patent No. 2003903453). These mutants have conversion efficiences of more than 1% and gas purities which have been shown to be sufficient to power a small-scale fuel cell without further purification.

Key Projects

Bio-H2: Our projects aim to use molecular tools to improve biomass production with unicellular microalgae in order to develop a competitive solar-powered H2 production system, based on engineered cells.

High-H2 production C. reinhardtii mutants Stm6 and Stm6glc4 are used for systematic analysis of solar-driven H2 production pathways (Systems Biotechnology) and their H2 production capacities will be further optimised through parallel bioengineering-driven approaches.

The projects integrate advances based on parallel research steams being conducted in our laboratory in colalboration with our consortium partners in Australia, the UK and Germany, with the specific aim to combine solar-driven biomass and bio-H2 production with the technical development of an economically-profitable algal photo-bioreactor.

Bio-Methane: We furthermore aim to couple photo-biological H2 production from algae with the development of "near market" biomass and bio-methane production systems.