, Volume 249, Issue 1, pp 195–219 | Cite as

Ten years of algal biofuel and bioproducts: gains and pains

  • Hui Chen
  • Tianpei Li
  • Qiang WangEmail author
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Terpenes and Isoprenoids


Main conclusion

It has been proposed that future efforts should focus on basic studies, biotechnology studies and synthetic biology studies related to algal biofuels and various high-value bioproducts for the economically viable production of algal biof uels.

In recognition of diminishing fossil fuel reserves and the worsening environment, microalgal biofuel has been proposed as a renewable energy source with great potential. Algal biofuel thus became one of the hottest topics in renewable energy research in the new century, especially over the past decade. Between 2007 and 2017, research related to microalgal biofuels experienced a dramatic, three-stage development, rising, growing exponentially, and then declining rapidly due to overheating of the subject. However, biofuel-driven algal biotechnology and bioproducts research has been thriving since 2010. To clarify the gains (and pains) of the past decade and detail prospects for the future, this review summarizes the extensive scientific progress and substantial technical advances in algal biofuel over the past decade, covering basic biology, applied research, as well as the production of value-added natural products. Even after 10 years of hard work and billions of dollars in investments, its unacceptably high cost remains the ultimate bottleneck for the industrialization of algal biofuel. To maximize the total research benefits, both economically and socially, it has been proposed that future efforts should focus on basic studies to characterize oilgae, on biotechnology studies into various high-value bioproducts. Moreover, the development of synthetic biology provides new possibilities for the economically viable production of biofuels via the directional manufacture of microalgal bioproducts in algal cell factories.


Algal biofuel Bioproducts Application Basic biology Synthetic biology 



This work was supported jointly by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (31870041, 31770128, 31700107), Hubei Provincial Natural Science Foundation of China (2017CFA021), and the State Key Laboratory of Freshwater Ecology and Biotechnology (2016FB11). The funders had no role in the study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.

Conflict of interest

All authors declare no competing financial interests.

Supplementary material

425_2018_3066_MOESM1_ESM.xlsx (9.1 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (XLSX 9327 kb)
425_2018_3066_MOESM2_ESM.doc (54 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (DOC 54 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Algal BiologyInstitute of Hydrobiology, Chinese Academy of SciencesWuhanChina
  2. 2.Donghu Experimental Station of Lake Ecosystems, State Key Laboratory of Freshwater Ecology and Biotechnology of ChinaInstitute of Hydrobiology, The Chinese Academy of SciencesWuhanChina
  3. 3.University of the Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina

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