D-Factory project aims to set biorefinery world benchmark

D-Factory, a four-year collaborative project funded by the European Commission's FP7, aims to build a Dunaliella biorefinery.

D-Factory launch, a four-year collaborative project funded by the European Commission's Seventh Framework Program, which aims to build a biorefinery with the Dunaliella microalgae. This microalgae will serve as a sustainable raw material for the creation of products with added value.

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D-Factory project aims to set biorefinery world benchmark

The University of Greenwich is leading a €10m international project, called the ‘D-Factory,’ to build a biorefinery to develop the microalga Dunaliella as a sustainable raw material and turn every part of the alga into something useful.

Project leader Professor Pat Harvey, from the university’s Faculty of Engineering & Science, said, “The race is on to develop a broader spectrum of compounds from algae, which can be turned into high-value products including food and medicines. If we can make algae biorefineries commercially viable, we will have developed a new industry founded on an environmentally-kind raw material which is also sustainable. The potential is huge.”

The research brings together 13 research institutions and businesses from eight countries, including world-leading experts in the biochemistry of Dunaliella, in large-scale cultivation of microalgae, in novel harvesting technologies and in bioprocessing development.

Together they aim to set a world benchmark for a biorefinery based on microalgae. Plans include the largest commercial cultivation of the single-cell organisms, in water raceways, lakes and photobioreactors.

The project “hopes to demonstrate” the business case for global investment in algae biorefineries, and in large-scale production of microalgae within three years, in order to raise investment for the first prototype D-Factory in Europe.

The Dunaliella alga has been chosen because it produces a wide range of compounds, appropriate for the ‘biorefinery’ concept, which aims to use every element of a biomass. It can cope with extreme conditions, from salt caves in the Antarctic, to salt pans in the tropics. The high salinity and light intensity turns the microalgae orange by producing protective carotenoids. The pink-orange of many salt lakes containing Dunaliella is intensified by the presence of archaea, fellow single-celled organisms.

The D-Factory, or CO2 algae biorefinery, is a four-year collaborative project with funding from the European Union’s FP7 Cooperation Work Programme.

The 13 D-Factory partners include:
Universities and research institutes: University of Greenwich, UK; National Technical University of Athens, Greece; Institute for Energy and Environmental Research Heidelberg, Germany; Marine Biological Association, UK. Small and medium enterprises (SMEs): A4F AlgaFuel S.A., Portugal; Nature Beta Technologies, Israel; SPTechnical Research Institute of SwedenDynamic Extractions, UK; NateCO2, Germany; Instituto de Biologia Experimental e Tecnologica, Portugal; Evodos, Netherlands; Hafren Investments, UK; IN, Italy.