Seaweed, or “macro-algae”, are recognised as a source of valuable compounds with applications such as pharmaceuticals, nutraceuticals, polymers and functional foods. However, until now, seaweed has been underexploited in Europe due to the challenges of expanding seaweed biomass production and harvesting, and developing integrated processes by which a full range of valuable products can be obtained.
The Genialg programme is improving the quality and productivity of farmed Saccharina latissimi (a brown alga) and Ulva (a green alga), developing a range of products derived from these algae and developing an integrated and sustainable pathway for their production from biomass.
CNAP is responsible for the biorefinery work package in Genialg, and is working with industry partners and research centres across Europe to identify valuable products and develop environmentally benign and commercially sustainable pathways for their production from farmed algae. The research involves:
- Developing an inventory of the major components of potential commercial value present in Saccharina and Ulva biomass.
- Developing new environmentally benign processes for the extraction and processing of existing commercial products, based on the use of enzymes and environmentally sustainable chemicals and solvents.
- Assessing a range of algal extracts and products for industrial applications.
- Scaling up integrated processes giving rise to a range of new and existing product ranges and to prepare at a small scale (laboratory) selected purified components for chemical, biochemical, microbiological, and physical characterisation.
Dr Gomez specialises in the use of plants as chemical platforms for the production of biorenewable products.
Dr Tonon is interested in algal physiology, enzyme characterization, evolution of metabolic pathways, and on developing biotechnological applications based on algae and/or algal genes.