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Immobilising microalgae and cyanobacteria as biocomposites: New opportunities to intensify algae biotechnology and bioprocessing

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Gary Caldwell, Warm In-Na, Rachel Hart, Assia Stefanova, Matthew Pickersgill, Matt Walker, Dr Jonathan LeeORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


There is a groundswell of interest in applying phototrophic microorganisms, specifically microalgae and cyanobacteria, for biotechnology and ecosystem service applications. However, there are inherent challenges associated with conventional routes to their deployment (using ponds, raceways and photobioreactors) which are synonymous with suspension cultivation techniques. Cultivation as biofilms partly ameliorates these issues; however, based on the principles of process intensification, by taking a step beyond biofilms and exploiting nature inspired artificial cell immobilisation, new opportunities become available, particularly for applications requiring extensive deployment periods (e.g., carbon capture and wastewater bioremediation). We explore the rationale for, and approaches to immobilised cultivation, in particular the application of latex-based polymer immobilisation as living biocomposites. We discuss how biocomposites can be optimised at the design stage based on mass transfer limitations. Finally, we predict that biocomposites will have a defining role in realising the deployment of metabolically engineered organisms for real world applications that may tip the balance of risk towards their environmental deployment.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Caldwell GS, In-na P, Hart R, Sharp E, Stefanova A, Pickersgill M, Walker M, Perry J, Lee JGM

Publication type: Review

Publication status: Published

Journal: Energies

Year: 2021

Volume: 14

Issue: 9

Online publication date: 29/04/2021

Acceptance date: 28/04/2021

ISSN (electronic): 1996-1073


DOI: 10.3390/en14092566