Microalgae comprise a vast group of photosynthetic, heterotrophic organisms which have an extraordinary potential for cultivation as energy crops. Microalgae represent an immense range of genetic diversity. They are ubiquitously distributed throughout the biosphere and grow under the widest possible variety of conditions.
The idea of producing methane gas from algae was proposed in the early 1950s, but there are also other potential fuel products which can be obtained from these organisms. Algae can produce ethanol via fermentation or can be used via direct combustion, to produce electricity. Another very promising product from algal culture is biodiesel from triglycerides which some algal strains accumulate under particular growth conditions.
Obviously to obtain biodiesel (a mixture of methyl esters of fatty acids) an energy-intensive work-up is required (for example, the extraction of triglycerides from the algal biomass) which has a negative impact on the cost of production.
The research activity carried out by the group aims at finding the best conditions for the growth of selected algal strains and to obtain the biodiesel mixtures.