Microalgae-based carbon capture tech developed

[Taiwan] An inter-university research team has developed a microalgae-based carbon capture technology and established the nation’s largest pilot microalgae farm at a university in Tainan in hopes of helping the nation conserve energy and reduce its carbon emissions.

Microalgae are the most productive organism for capturing carbon because of their high photosynthetic rate, said the team, headed by National Cheng Kung University professor Chang Chia-hsiu (張嘉修).

The goal of the team was to use the exhaust emissions and wastewater from factories to breed microalgae, which were first mutated from wild algae with special chemical formulas until they were capable of tolerating the level of heat emitted by factory chimneys, and use the bred microalgae to capture carbon dioxide for photosynthesis, the team said.

“We hope to create a sustainable ecological system,” Chang said.

The team discovered that 1 kg of microalgae is capable of absorbing 2kg of carbon dioxide, adding that the Chlorella and cyanobacteria often found in Taiwan’s rivers were most effective, Chang said.

If factories could dedicate one hectare of land for the breeding of microalgae, that one hectare would be able to capture 400 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year, he said.

The team has established a breeding center for microalgae at the university’s campus in Annan (安南), Tainan, that is capable of holding 40 tonnes of microalgae, Chang said, with plans for building a bigger center that can breed 200 tonnes of microalgae.

The team has also developed the technology for extracting lutein, synthesizing succinic acid, synthesizing 2-Hydroxypropanoic acid and extracting biodiesel from microalgae, Chang said.

In addition, it has developed a process for breeding microalgae with Rhodotorula rubra, Chang said.

Rhodotorula rubra, a type of yeast, growing on petri dish.
Rhodotorula rubra, a type of yeast, growing on petri dish.

Aside from producing biodiesel, Rhodotorula can be made into healthcare products, the team said, adding that the carbon dioxide produced when it is growing can also be used by microalgae.

The inter-university team was commissioned by the Ministry of Science and Technology and also includes professors from National Sun Yat-sen University, Tunghai University, Fooyin University and National Chiao Tung University, as well as the Metal Industries Research & Development Center.

Photo: National Cheng Kung University professor Chang Chia-hsiu explains the theory behind the microalgae carbon capture technology he has developed together with an interuniversity team of professors in Taipei on Wednesday last week.Aug 18, 2015 (Photo: Tang Chia-ling, Taipei Times)

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