Microalgae and processes

Microalgae are microscopic plants that colonize all the ecological niches of our planet. They are able to thrive in environments subject to extreme temperatures or sunlight, as well as chemical aggressions. Real photosynthesis factories, microalgae develop much faster than most land plants, doubling or tripling their biomass every day.

They present an unequalled biochemical diversity. With hundreds of thousands of species and varieties, some of which are still unknown, microalgae hold great promise for industrial applications.

The emerging sector of the blue bioeconomy, an economy based on the sustainable exploitation of aquatic resources, is expanding rapidly. The uses of algae are multiplying, including in new fields such as biosourced chemistry, biomaterials, pollution treatment and tomorrow biofuels.

To support this unprecedented multi-sector industrial development, the CEA’s technological research department has set up a platform dedicated to the study of microalgae production processes. This technology platform is located at the Cité des Énergies site in Cadarache, Provence, in an ecosystem that represents one of the largest research centers for low-carbon energy in Europe.

The “Microalgae and processes” platform ensures the development of innovative knowledge thanks to its human and material resources, and it accompanies the provision of key generic technologies of the CEA for the benefit of the actors of the microalgae industry.

This platform plays a central role in the value chain, from the selection of the best strains to product development. It relies on collaborations with specialized laboratories affiliated to the CEA, but also on a highly developed network of external academic and industrial partnerships.

This mode of operation makes it possible to provide the microalgae sector with an extensive portfolio of knowledge and technologies to meet development and innovation needs in the most comprehensive way possible.

The research work carried out concerns the current application sectors for microalgae, such as human nutrition, cosmetic actives, animal feed and biostimulants for agriculture. It also covers potential future outlets for microalgae in sectors such as plant chemistry, bioplastics, industrial decarbonization, sustainable fuels and environmental protection.

The platform consists of 3 laboratories, a workshop and two pilot greenhouses.

By defining and carrying out the proof of concept of production processes, the objective is to prepare and make reliable the industrial production of microalgae.

To carry out this mission, the platform is equipped with multiple closed or open culture devices of different sizes, harvesting systems by solid-liquid separation, drying or processing.

It has numerous physico-chemical characterization facilities for the analysis of culture media and biomasses produced.

It relies on a dedicated team of experts who are able to understand industrial problems and translate them into scientific or technological developments.

The innovations developed are intended to be transferred to the business world. The team takes an active part in some industrial demonstration projects.