A process that could extract the different chemical components from microalgae in order to convert them into bio-based chemical, biofuels and bioplastics is under development. When brought to market, the technology could provide the means for waste processors to reap greater profits from spent algae.

West LaFayette, Ind.-based Gen3Bio Inc., a Purdue Foundry-affiliated company, is seeking funding to further develop the technology.

“Companies use algae for things such as wastewater treatment or flue gas remediation. Additionally, there are algae producers and harvesters who clean up fish farms or natural waters,” said Kelvin Okamoto, founder of Gen3Bio. “Usually after the algae has been used for its initial purpose, it’s disposed of in landfills or converted into animal feed supplements or field nutrition supplements. While the last two are great uses, companies do not receive much money from these options. It’s more profitable to convert the byproduct algae to high value bio-based chemicals.”

“There’s been a huge movement toward greener, renewable products for the sake of the environment and that includes biofuels and biochemicals,” Okamoto added. “Conventional biofuels are derived from sugars of crops, which can take a considerable amount of land and water to produce. Algae has a low carbon footprint, is renewable and can be accessed in large quantities, so overall it is very environmentally friendly. It’s a great alternative to meet the expected demand for bio-based products in the future.”