Numerical simulation of CO2 biofixation and biofuels production with microalgae


Alessandro Concas,


Biofuel production through microalgae is a promising and sustainable solution in the world of renewable energies. It presents important advantages over first-generation biofuels: it enables the sustainable production of electric power through fossil fuels capturing CO2 the competition with agri-food productions is drastically reduced compared to other biofuels; and last but not least, the residue of the oil extraction from microalgae can be further exploited as it contains high value-added compounds like vitamins, antioxidants, and anti-microbial substances.
Despite the apparent simplicity of the process, its implementation at the industrial scale is still not widespread since it is characterized by technical and economic constraints that might hinder its full scale-up.


The CRS4 contribution to this subject is the development of mathematical simulation models and complex computer codes that enable the evaluation of the reactor and process configurations, aiming at the optimization and speed up of the algae growth. These models also allow to evaluate the distribution of the photon flux needed to trigger the conversion of CO2 in bioenergetics algal oil. Furthermore, protocols for genetic modification of microalgae are under development to enable an increased growth rate and an improved efficiency in the use of photonic flow. Finally, some innovative experimental protocols of non-polar lipid extraction from process residues are under implementation to achieve high value-added products, such as antioxidants, omega3 and others.

Innovative features

  • optimization of configuration and reactor performance via software without any additional cost due to field tests;

  • reduction of CO2 produced from thermal power plants;

  • production of high value-added products from waste and process residues;

  • production of various kinds of biofuels (biodiesel, jet-fuels, ethanole, etc.).

Potential users

Main beneficiaries include companies emitting CO2 as a result of their production cycle, companies operating in the production, refining and distribution of biofuels as well as the transport sector in general. Further potential users are the companies operating in the field of nutraceuticals (dietary supplements and antioxidants) and the pharmaceutical-biomedical industries (antivirals, phycobiliproteins, etc.)

Impact sectors

Companies generating power from fossil fuels – Biofuels and chemical industry – Pharmaceutical industry – Agri-food industry – Cosmetic industry.

Other resources

Alessandro Concas, Biofissazione di anidride carbonica con microalghe e produzione di biocarburanti. Collana Seminari per la valorizzazione dei risultati della ricerca al CRS4, Cagliari, 29 Marzo 2012.

Alessandro Concas, Massimo Pisu and Giacomo Cao. Novel simulation model of BIOCOIL photobioreactors for CO2 sequestration with microalgae. Chemical Engineering Journal, 157, 297-303 (2010).

Alessandro Concas, G. A. Lutzu, A. M. Locci and Giacomo Cao, Nannochloris eucaryotum growth in batch photobioreactors: kinetic analysis and use of 100% (v/v) CO2. New Biotechnology, under review (2012).

Alessandro Concas and Giacomo Cao, Riduzione di gas serra con tecnologie a microalghe e produzione di biopetrolio. La chimica & l'Industria, 8, 36-37(2011).

Alessandro Concas and Giacomo Cao, Sequestro di CO2 e produzione di biopetrolio mediante microalghe: la sfida sui processi. Informazione Ordine Ingegneri Provincia di Cagliari, 109, 5-10 (2008).

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