Microalgae are single-celled photosynthetic microorganisms. They are used for a wide range of bioproducts and environmental applications. However, there are several challenges facing large scale algal bioprocesses and there are also unexplored and under-exploited applications of this interesting biological resource. At CeBER, the algal biotechnology research group aims to address some of these engineering challenges and assess the potential of new microalgal bioproducts and applications.

CeBER’s algal research covers bioreactor engineering for microalgal cultivation, screening and selection of microalgal species for bioproducts and environmental applications, analysis of biomass components, optimisation of cultivation conditions for enhanced production of key components, and harvesting and extraction of biomass and bioproducts. Bioproducts of interest at CeBER include bioenergy, pigments, food, feed and nutraceuticals. An important area of work at CeBER involves the use of microalgae to take up carbon dioxide from coal burning power stations, with potential for producing valuable secondary products. Microalgae are also being investigated for bioremediation of heavy metal polluted waters and waste streams. Economic and environmental assessments are performed at CeBER for these microalgal bioprocesses and products.

Algal bioprocessing has been put forward as a flagship technology for driving the South African bioeconomy. Microalgae have great potential as a bioresource in South Africa, and globally, due to its ability to take up carbon dioxide, cultivate more rapidly than plants and grow on non-arable land. At CeBER, we strive to enhance algal bioprocesses and harness the versatility of microalgal biomass.