Photosynthetic efficiency in microalgal lipid production

Ilse M. Remmers

Research output: Thesisinternal PhD, WU


Microalgae can contain large amounts of lipids which make them a promising feedstock for sustainable production of food, feed, fuels and chemicals. Various studies, including pilot-scale, have been performed and the knowledge on microalgal processes has advanced quickly. Unfortunately, current production costs for cultivation are still too high for bulk lipid production from microalgae.

One of the major causes for the high costs of bulk lipid production is the reduced solar-to-lipid conversion efficiency. Current research, however, does not provide sufficient insight to identify optimization targets. Therefore, in this thesis we have studied the lipid production in microalgae in depth.

Different TAG-accumulation strategies were investigated from a process engineering and metabolic point of view. The combination of all findings were used in the general discussion to thoroughly evaluate the microalgal lipid accumulation strategies. Current phototrophic microalgal lipid yields are still 10 times lower than the theoretical maximum. There is, however, still an enormous potential for further improvements. Future research should focus on (genetically) improved strains and advanced cultivation strategies, including adaptation to fluctuating outdoor weather conditions.

This thesis was performed within the EU FP7 FUEL4ME project under grand agreement No 308938. Objective of this program is to develop a sustainable and scalable process for biofuels from microalgae and to valorize the by-products.

Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Wageningen University
  • Wijffels, Rene, Promotor
  • Lamers, P.P., Co-promotor
Award date15 Sep 2017
Place of PublicationWageningen
Print ISBNs9789463434607
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • algae
  • biofuels
  • light
  • triacylglycerols
  • lipids
  • metabolism
  • algae culture
  • cultural methods

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