At Embrapa Agroenergía genetics and genomic tools are being applied to cyanobacteria and microalgae for biofuel production and utilization of effluents. Photo: Daniela Collares reports that, after three years of research, Embrapa Agroenergía, in Brasilia, Brazil, has identified microalgae species that can be grown in liquid waste from agroindustry processing, and that generate renewable raw material for biofuels, food and cosmetics, among other products.

The effluents used in the studies were vinasse – formed in the production of cane sugar and ethanol, and wastewater generated in the processing of palm oil, used for irrigation purposes. The use of these products as a means to produce microalgae are likely to add value to sugarcane and palm oil supply chains by producing more biomass, energy oils and bioproducts.

The first work by Embrapa scientists was aimed at knowing the species capable of growing in vinasse, in industrial environments and biomes (Amazonia, Pantanal and Cerrado). Two unnamed microalgal species were identified that can be cultivated in the effluents with a good yield. The analysis of the components of the biomass of these two microalgae indicates a higher concentration of carbohydrates and proteins to the lipids and carotenoids, which make them more suitable for biodiesel for ethanol production. They can also be used for food.

The two species selected carry out photosynthesis but also use the organic matter of the vinasse to grow. They allow the vinasse to be used for sugarcane irrigation after the microalgae are removed.

Read More