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 optimized 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.