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Pr. Constantinos Theodoropoulos

University of Manchester, School of Chemical Engineering and Analytical Science, Biochemical and Bioprocess Engineering Group, UK


Talk Title
From microalgal biomass to biofuels production: Integrated experimental and model-based optimisation

Talk Abstract

Current transportation energy demands around the European Union are still largely satisfied by fossil-based fuels such as gasoline or diesel, known for intensifying two major environmental concerns: global warming and crude oil depletion. Biofuels, produced from biomass, have thus become the most suitable and renewable replacement for fossil fuels (Eurostat, 2017; Nigam and Singh, 2011). The interest in biofuels is clearly evidenced by current European regulations which mandate all Member States to reach, by 2020, a minimum 10% share in energy consumption from biofuels (Eurostat, 2017). If this target is to be met it is necessary to improve biofuel production processes allowing fossil fuels to be replaced without: i) triggering extreme changes to current infrastructure, or ii) requiring large monetary investments (Scaife et al., 2015). The widespread commercialization of biofuels, however, has been severely restricted by inefficient production technologies relying thus far on traditional food-based biomass and complex lignocellulosic materials which either raise fuels vs food concerns or increase processing costs (Chundawat et al., 2011).

In recent years, microalgal biomass has been regarded a long-term and fast-growing promising feedstock capable of meeting global biofuel demands due to their ability to accumulate carbohydrates and lipids, carbon-based molecules from which both sugar- and oil-based fuels could be obtained (Chen et al., 2013; Scaife et al., 2015). Starch and lipid accumulation is additionally known to be significantly induced during nutrient-stress algal cultivation, but the associated drop in biomass growth complicates the implementation of such a strategy for large-scale biofuel production (Bekirogullari et al., 2017). Thus, it is essential to identify optimal nutrient-based strategies capable of balancing the trade-off between algal growth and starch-lipid formation.

In order to establish the best microalgae-to-biofuels route, we have developed a multi-parameter kinetic model capable of predicting the simultaneous dynamics of biomass mixotrophic growth, and starch and lipid formation as a function of nutrient availability (Figueroa-Torres et al., 2017). This model was successfully employed to optimize starch and lipid formation under typical batch-mode algal cultivation, and has been additionally exploited to establish an optimized fed-batch cultivation strategy capable of further enhancing algal growth with respect to a batch-mode operation. The optimal fed-batch scenario was successfully validated against experimental datasets obtained in-house from lab-scale cultures of Chlamydomonas reinhardtii CCAP 11/32.  The established fed-batch strategy yields a significant increase in starch formation with respect to batch-mode operation, which aids in the development of microalgal biomass as a large-scale biofuel feedstock.


- Bekirogullari, M., Fragkopoulos, I.S., Pittman, J.K., Theodoropoulos, C., 2017. Algal Res. 23, 78–87.

- Chen, C.-Y., Zhao, X.-Q., Yen, H.-W., Ho, S.-H., Cheng, C.-L., Lee, D.-J., Bai, F.-W., Chang, J.-S., 2013. Biochem. Eng. J. 78, 1–10.

- Chundawat, S.P.S., Beckham, G.T., Himmel, M.E., Dale, B.E., 2011. Annu. Rev. Chem. Biomol. Eng. 2, 121–145.

- Figueroa-Torres, G.M., Pittman, J.K., Theodoropoulos, C., 2017. Bioresour. Technol. 241, 868–878.

- Nigam, P.S., Singh, A., 2011. Prog. Energy Combust. Sci. 37, 52–68.

- Scaife, M.A., Merkx-Jacques, A., Woodhall, D.L., Armenta, R.E., 2015. Renew. Sustain. Energy Rev. 44, 620–642.

Short Biography

Prof. Theodoropoulos received his BSc in Mathematics from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece and his MSc and PhD in Chemical Engineering from the State university of New York at Buffalo, USA. He then worked as a post-doctoral associate in the Department of Chemical Engineering at Princeton University. He is currently Professor of Chemical and Biochemical Systems Engineering, Director of Postgraduate Research and Leader of the Biochemical and Bioprocess Engineering Group in the School of Chemical Engineering and Analytical Science at the University of Manchester. His research group develops state-of-the-art computational algorithms for the dynamics, optimisation and controller design of complex large- and multi-scale (bio)chemical systems and follows this through to implementation for a range of applications from fuel cells to micro and nano-catalytic systems and to the experimental biocatalytic conversion of biorefinery byproducts to added value chemicals. He is the recipient of the 2011 Innovation and Excellence Award for bioprocessing from the Instutute of Chemical Engineers UK and of the 2012 ExxonMobil Excellence in Teaching Award by the Royal Academy of Engineering. For his novel experimental and computational biotechnology applications he has a PCT patent granted. He has over 100 scientific publications and has given a number of invited seminars and lectures all over the world. He has served as member of editorial boards and of international scientific committees and also as session chair for a number of International Conferences and Workshops. He has  organised and taught Continuing Professional Development courses to industrial delegates, intensive post-graduate course programmes to Universities around the world as well as in-house training workshops for the Industrial Sector.

Talk Keywords
Microalgae; model-based optimization; kinetic models; fed-batch cultivation; biofuels; biobutanol; biodiesel.
Target Audience
biochemical and bioprocess engineers, biorefinery and biofuels enthusiasts, microalgae-focused scientists and practitioners
Speaker-intro video

The International Conference on Innovative Applied Energy (IAPE’18)