Uni Gdansk bloom “case”: from bloom to smart bioproducts
The Polish researchers at University of Gdansk are developing an industrial process that turns cyanobacterial blooms from the Baltic Sea into bioplastics.
A group of researchers at University of Gdansk is working on ideas oriented towards practical use of algae (ecology, cultivation, collections) on one hand and IT and engineering on the other hand. The current project of the team with which the researchers are dealing while being involved into the ALLIANCE is smart use of the bloom biomass.
The business idea bridges two urgent problems of global interest together and is of high importance in the semi-enclosed Baltic Sea – these two problems are: plastic pollution and eutrophication. The researchers from Uni Gdansk aim to develop an industrial process to turn cyanobacterial blooms into bioplastics or biomaterials that could replace some of popular non-degradable plastics threatening the existence of the earth ecosystems. In recent years it was shown that cyanobacteria can produce biopolymers as e.g. polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA) in amounts up to 60% of cdw and poly-β-hydroxybutyrate (PHB) up to 77% of cdw. Furthermore, microalgae have been demonstrated to be a suitable material for development of various bioproducts.
Currently, cyanobacteria are used in aquaculture, wastewater treatment, food, fertilizers, production of secondary metabolites including exopolysaccharides, vitamins, toxins, ethanol, hydrogen, enzymes and pharmaceuticals. Several strains of cyanobacteria were found to accumulate PHA. They can be used as a substitute for nonbiodegradable petrochemical-based plastics and are able to degrade oil components.
The samples were taken during massive blooms of cyanobacteria from the Gulf of Gdansk (Southern Baltic Sea) between 2011 and 2016. The samples for qualitative and quantitative analysis were preserved with Lugol’s solution and examined with a light and inverted microscope. The samples for biomass analysis were freeze-dried. The element analysis included ICP-OES, carbohydrates content – UV-VIS, quantitative determination of proteins – elemental analyses and lipid analyses, as well as qualitative and quantitative analyses of polyhydroxylic acids
"Although no internal ALLIANCE partner could help us, the service needed by us was outsourced to an external company working with the ALLIANCE, this action helped us to move forward with our business idea.”-
The case with the title "From bloom to smart bioproducts" was selected by the ALLIANCE as 4th generation case in November 2017 and was assigned to the University of Gdańsk as primary mentor and the Submariner Network as secondary mentor. Later it received also support from the Pomeranian Special Economic Zone Ltd. (PSEZ).
The ALLIANCE partners are providing support in:
- feasibility analysis
- business model canvas
- identifying key partners and developing value chains
- finding partners for harvesting
- handling and marketing of algae.
At the present stage the researchers’ team needs to enhance the biomass to make it more resistant in order to have properties that would suite a wide range of applications. To achieve this undertaking, an expert knowledge from the field of material design and industrial processing is mandatory. Moreover, the team expects to receive a range of algal based plastic masses that will have parameters fulfilling the safety and health requirements along with features as attractive texture, color and smell. Additionally, a life-cycle-analysis is required to ensure that prospective products will go through a process of critique to meet requirements set for environmentally friendly products. The case needs help in assessing the potential volume of sales and market value of products developed from bloom biomass.
Photo credit: University of Gdansk.©