Algae are currently used for production of niche products and are becoming increasingly interesting for the production of bulk commodities, such as biodiesel. For the production of these goods to become economically feasible, production costs will have to be lowered by one order of magnitude. The application of two-phase systems could be used to lower production costs. These systems circumvent the costly step of cell harvesting, whilst the product is extracted and prepared for downstream processing. The mechanism of extraction is a fundamental aspect of the practical question whether two-phase systems can be applied for in situ extraction, viz, simultaneous growth, product formation and extraction, or as a separate downstream processing step. Three possible mechanisms are discussed; 1) product excretion 2) cell permeabilization, and 3) cell death. It was shown that in the case of product excretion, the application of two-phase systems for in situ extraction can be very valuable. With permeabilization and cell death, in situ extraction is not ideal, but the application of two-phase systems as downstream extraction steps can be part of a well-designed biorefinery process. In this way, processing costs can be decreased while the product is mildly and selectively extracted. Thus far none of the algal strains used in two-phase systems have been shown to excrete their product; the output has always been the result of cell death. Two-phase systems can be a good approach as a downstream processing step for these species. For future applications of two-phase in situ extraction in algal production processes, either new species that show product excretion should be discovered, or existing species should be modified to induce product excretion.
- intracellularly stored products
- beta-carotene production
- dunaliella biotechnology
- hydrocarbon recovery
- biodiesel production