Plastics made of algae – Aimplas leads European project „Bisigodos“

The Technological Institute of Plastics (AIMPLAS) coordinates an ambitious investigation project (Bisigodos) that allows obtaining different substances for the production of adhesives, paints and inks originating from a renewable source such as microalgae.

Together with 13 other partners, AIMPLAS heads BISIGODOS, a European project that was launched on 1 November 2013 and will run for 42 months. The project is financed by the European Commission under the 7th Framework Programme (7FP). Its purpose is to select and cultivate new varieties of these organisms that allow the optimization of the extraction of high added value products for the industry. The basis is a developed technology by the enterprise Biofuel Systems (BFS) in Alicante, Spain, with the objective to obtain artificial fuel from microalgae.

The scope of the project and its ambitious objectives require the participation of partners from different fields. In a first phase, the project activity includes the selection and cultivation of the best varieties of microalgae in photobioreactors from the laboratory which will also be optimized to achieve the highest possible volume of the product. Microalgae have rapid growth rates in CO2-rich environments. Thus, more than 150 tons of dry biomass per hectare can annually be produced in those photobioreactors.

Reduction of CO2 emissions from industry

One of the main advantages of this technology is that those plants only need sunlight and carbon dioxide to be able to grow. Therefore, the gas emissions from industrial sources, such as cement plants or power generation companies, are additionally used to achieve a reduction of the environmental impact of these installations. Moreover, each project team focuses on the extraction of individual compounds originating from microalgae that allow the production of new additives for the formulation of industrial products, which have the advantage of being 100% renewable.

A first valuation of the original biomass follows the extraction of its lipid fraction and thus polyurethanes can be obtained to be used as components for adhesive products. In the same time, the extraction of proteins creates amino acids and lactic acid for the food industry. The resting biomass undergoes a thermochemical process, firstly, for its total exploitation and secondly, to obtain surfactants and other chemical substances for the production of paints and inks.

AIMPLAS´ function in the project is to validate the usefulness of each of the extracted ingredients in every phase for the integration in the industrial production process of the planned products. Together with AIMPLAS, the following institutions or enterprises participate in the project: Biofuel Systems, University of Warwik, VTT, Becker Industrial Coatings, Sun Chemical, Process Design Center B.V., Bangor University, Croda International, 3V Mabo, Phycosource, Gruene- Bioraffinerie, Caspeo and Cromogenia.