Microalgae as a Feedstock for Biofuels

  • Luisa GouveiaEmail author
Part of the SpringerBriefs in Microbiology book series (BRIEFSMICROBIOL)


This review explains the potential use of the so-called “green coal” for biofuel production. A comparison between microalgae and other crops is given, and their advantages are highlighted. The production of biofuels from microalgae biomass is described, such as the use of algae extracts (e.g. biodiesel from oil, bioethanol from starch), processing the whole biomass (e.g. biogas from anaerobic digestion, supercritical fluid, bio-oil by pyrolysis, syngas by gasification, biohydrogen, jet fuel), as well as the direct production (e.g. alcohols, alkanes). Microalgal biomass production systems are also mentioned, including production rates and production/processing costs. Algae cultivation strategy and the main culture parameters are point out as well as biomass harvesting technologies and cell disruption. The CO2 sequestration is emphasised due to it’s undoubted interest in cleaning our earth. Life cycle analysis is also discussed. The algal biorefinery strategy, which can integrate several different conversion technologies to produce biofuel is highlighted for a cost-effective and environmentally sustainable production of biofuels. The author explains some of the challenges that need to be overcome to ensure the viability of biofuel production from microalgae. This includes the author’s own research, the use of microorganism fuel cells, genetic modification of microalgae, the use of alternative energies for biomass production, dewatering, drying and processing. The conclusion of the manuscript is the author’s view on the potential of microalgae to produce biofuels; the drawbacks and what should be done in terms of research to solve them; which technologies seem to be more viable to produce energy from algae; and which improvements in terms of microalgae, systems, and technologies should take place to enable the algae to fuels concept a reality.


Bioenergy production Biofuels Biorefinery concept CO2 sequestration Environmental sustainability Green coal Life cycle analysis of microalgae Microalgae Microalgal biomass production systems Photobioreactors 



The author thanks Engº João Sousa (LNEG, Portugal) for the figures and Dr João Miranda and Drª Ana Evangelista Marques (LNEG, Portugal) for their contributions to the Bioethanol and Biohydrogen sections, respectively. The author also thanks a native English speaker and friend, Stephanie Seddon-Brown, and the Engª Ana Paula Batista for assistance in the manuscript correction. The work was supported by FCT Project PTDC/ENR/68457/2006.


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© Luisa Gouveia 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratório Nacional de Energiae GeologUnidade de BioenergiaLisbonPortugal

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