Scientists and engineers at Peer Schenk’s Algae Biotechnology Group are working to sustainably produce biodiesel, protein-rich animal feed and high value products from microalgae. Importantly, microalgae are highly efficient producers of biomass that can be farmed in large-scale without competing for arable land or biodiverse landscapes. They are able to use polluted water, brackish or seawater. Using next generation sequencing and chemical engineering, Schenk’s team has developed improved local microalgae strains, as well as low cost algae cultivation and innovative harvesting systems. A 250,000 Liter Algae Energy Farm has been constructed at the UQ-Pinjarra Hills campus to provide a cost- & energy-effective biodiesel and animal feed production module. This module fully utilises microalgae’s potential as a zero-waste biorefinery concept, producing not only bioenergy, but also cattle feedstock as well as omega-3 fatty acids, carotenoids and phytosterols for the food industry. Additional research is underway to combine biodiesel from microalgae with biogas production that will allow recycling of fertliser to provide fully sustainable energy farms.
Peer developed the area of Algae Biotechnology, which has received significant support from ARC and industry. The aim of the Algae Biotechnology Lab is to develop local microalgae strains to sustainably produce biodiesel, protein-rich aquaculture feed, Omega-3 fatty acids and other high value products. A cost-effective large scale algae biorefinery module is currently being built that is able to use polluted water, brakish or seawater.