WAG Sustainable Development Report highlights Swansea algal biofuel research

Innovative research at Swansea University’s Centre for Sustainable Aquaculture Research (CSAR) has featured in the Welsh Assembly Government (WAG) Sustainable Development Report 2009-2010

The One Wales: One Planet publication set out WAG’s vision of a sustainable Wales and how this vision can be realised.

Work undertaken by Swansea scientists in the field of Microalgal Biotechnology has been highlighted as an example of how WAG is supporting research and development and the commercialisation of new sustainable technologies, products, and processes.

Microalgae are a highly diverse group of microscopic single celled plants that occur naturally in most aquatic environments on Earth. By employing cutting edge technology microalgae can be exploited, via mass cultivation and conversion of harvested biomass, into sustainable products such as biofuel and high value fine chemicals.

Dr Robin Shields, Research Director of CSAR, said: “We are delighted that our work has been showcased to demonstrate how we are contributing to a sustainable Wales. The report identifies sustainable job creation and carbon emission/waste reduction as key outcomes, and microalgal biotechnology shows great potential to assist meeting these goals.

“A commercial scale operation could utilise a significant quantity of waste nutrients and combustion gases from agriculture and industrial processes. Via photosynthesis, microalgal cells use light to grow and produce valuable biomass – or living material – which is then harvested and refined. A wide variety of different compounds can be extracted and used for a broad number of applications including pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and nutritional products.

“A particularly exciting prospect is harvesting oil for biodiesel production, as microalgae can be cultivated in non-arable areas adjacent to industrial facilities and yield a much higher percentage of extractable oil than other crops."

The UK Carbon Trust Algal Biofuels Challenge was developed to accelerate the development of microalgal biofuels towards commercial production.

Research, led by Professor Kevin Flynn of Swansea University’s Institute for Environmental Sustainability, will focus on modelling of production and processing of microalgae to define the operational envelope for the economic production of biofuels.

The University is also working collaboratively with local, national and European industrial and academic partners to sustainably exploit these organisms, for example through the EC Framework 7 and Knowledge Transfer Centres (KTCs).

KTCs were recently established by the WAG through the European Academic Expertise for Business – or A4B – programme. Their main goals are to support businesses within the technology sector in Wales.

The Algal Biotechnology for Wales KTC at CSAR and the Centre for Advanced Membrane Separation and Surface Technologies KTC, based in the College of Engineering’s Centre for Complex Fluids Processing, are two such complimentary research groups that can assist Welsh business by tailoring their expertise to the requirements of local enterprises.

For more information visit:

The Centre for Sustainable Aquaculture Research – http://www.aquaculturewales.com/ and http://www.algaektc.com

The Centre for Advanced Membrane Separation and Surface Technologies – http://complexfluids.swansea.ac.uk/

Algal Biofuels Challenge – http://www.carbontrust.co.uk/emerging-technologies/current-focus-areas/Algae-biofuels-challenge/Pages/algae-biofuels-challenge.aspx.

This news item has been generated by Katy Drane, Swansea University Public Relations Office, Tel: 01792 295050 or email k.drane@swansea.ac.uk