Our algae facilities are dedicated to looking at how microalgae might be grown more efficiently and harvested more cheaply without competing with agricultural fertilisers or land. Read more Read less

Alternatives to fossil derived fuels from secure and sustainable sources are essential, and this will only be achieved through research and development of technologies, where bioenergy and biofuels become an intrinsic part of the renewable energy mix for power generation and particularly transport fuels. Utilisation of algae yields the greatest potential opportunities in the long term.

The Algae Laboratory has some major pilot scale facilities for growing and processing algae for biofuel production including an oscillating wave tank, photobioreactors and a good range of biological and analytical facilities.

At Cranfield University we research the optimal method for cultivation and harvesting algae, using phototrophic cultivation techniques. Some microalgae species can double their biomass in only a few hours. The principle requirements for growth are light (sunlight or artificial), carbon dioxide, nutrients and trace elements.

Read more about Cranfield University's Sea Green Project.

Oscillating Wave Tank Bioreactor: Capacity 1000 litres. This tank is unique to Cranfield University, and is a pilot scale wave bioreactor.  The tank replicates wave conditions of the ocean conditions, with fluorescent daylight simulation plant growth lights and changing frequency and amplitude wave movements.

RiOs™ Millipore Water Sanitization module:  The micro algae pilot laboratory needs reliable water purification techniques to include ultra-filtration, reverse osmosis membranes, ultra violet and chloride ion disinfection.

GEA Disk Stacked Centrifuge: To separate the algae from water.

Shimadzu™ Total Carbon Organic Analyser:  To measure the amount of carbon bound either organically in biomass or dissolved inorganic carbon in water samples.

Shimadzu™ Gas Chromatography:  This is an analytical instrument that measures the content of various lipid (oil) fractions in a sample. The analysis performed by a gas chromatograph is called gas chromatography. The machine temperatures range from 140C to 250C measuring different length carbon chain lipid compounds. In short, we can establish how growth conditions alter lipid profile of microalgae biomass.

Lyophilisation Machine:  A dehydration process typically used to preserve a perishable material or make the material more convenient for transport. Freeze-drying works by freezing the material and then reducing the surrounding pressure to allow the frozen water in the material to sublimate directly from the solid phase to the gas phase. This is used to freeze dry algae samples for routine applications and future experimental research. Freeze drying preserves the nutrional composition of microalgae biomass and allows for sensitive analysis of targeted proteins and carbohydrates. This machine allows for processing of microalgae biomass grown either outdoors or indoors.

Genlab Oven: This is used for drying, with temperature regulation for calculation of ash free dry weight.

Brunswick Scientific Laboratory Freezer: An essential freezer with a temperature range to minus 80C. Ultra low temperature freezer for long term preservation of biomass.

Innova 44 Incubator  Shaker System: This machine is programmable, and can automatically change temperature, speed and optional photosynthetic and UV germicidal lights at timed intervals. It is used for parametric experiments of low concentration prior to batch culture. Continual mixing provides uniform exposure of the cells to light, nutrients and temperature.

Spectrophotometer: This machine is required to measure colour variation. A spectrophotometer is a photometer that can measure intensity as a function of the light source wavelength. Important features of spectrophotometers are spectral bandwidth and linear range of absorption or reflectance measurement.

Greenhouse Facilities: We have excellent greenhouse facilities, in which we are researching polyethylene tubular bioreactor for growing algae to explore harvest and processing.


Using the facility

  • A bioethanol engineering development company uses the facility for ultrasonic analysis to determine optimisation of bioethanol production and feedstock consumption. Research is also being conducted into the optimisation of low cost microalgae harvesting technology.

  • Influence of steel slag and simulated coal flue combustion gases on productivity of microalgae

  • Vertical columnar microalgae photobioreactor (PBR) fluid dynamics

  • Microalgae lipid analysis using gas chromatography.

  • Influence of low-cost organic nutrients for microalgae growth including anaerobic digestate.

  • Batch culture of microalgae biomass for biofuel production via hydrothermal liquefaction and thermo-conversion processes.

  • Microalgae. We can select strains from the Culture Collection of Algae and Protozoa at the Scottish Association of Marine Science in Oban and batch culture strains for research purposes. Cultivation of microalgae in simulated coal flue combustion gases

  • Comparison of waste processing by-products as algae nutrients. 

  • Improving the efficiency of harvesting and drying of microalgae biomass. 

  • Investigation of resonance on thermoconversion techniques.

  • Pilot scale manufacture of bio gas or bio fuel, by extracting oil and converting into biodiesel through fatty acid methyl esterification, or via pyrolysis, carbonation or hydrothermal liquefaction.

  • We compare algae growth using microscopy, spectrophotometry and carbon accumulation. 

  • Lipid profiles can be analysed by gas chromatography. 

  • Downstream processing methods can compare lipid yield profile against a range of process engineering parameters such as temperature, culture volume, pressure, holding time.