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UTS C3 Climate Change Cluster

Algal Biosystems and Biotechnology

Aim

The Algal Biosystems Research Group aims to improve microalgal biomass productivity using a multidisciplinary approach.

Algal biomass may be used to produce: sustainable biofuels, bulk chemicals,  agriculture and aquaculture feedstocks, fertiliser, cosmetics, nutraceuticals and pharmaceuticals.

Algae may also be used in: carbon dioxide sequestration, wastewater treatment, solid waste treatment and desalination.

Research capacity

In order to bring mass-scale algal cultivation closer to reality, it is crucial to understand how abiotic environmental parameters influence algal physiology. We use a matrix of environmental photo-bioreactors (ePBRs) to address key commercialisation roadblocks. The ePBRs are used to simulate environmental conditions, such as irradiance, temperature and carbon availability, at prospective large-scale algal facilities within a controlled laboratory setting. Algal physiological response is measured in terms of chlorophyll fluorescence, oxygen evolution and biomass productivity. Using this approach it is possible to:

  • Assess algal biomass productivity with non-invasive optical technology,
  • Investigate the synthesis of various bio-products,
  • Optimise algal growth conditions,
  • Select the appropriate algal species for a specific environment, and
  • Anticipate and overcome obstacles to algal growth, such as photo-inhibitive irradiance levels or carbon limitation.

We are actively looking to explore opportunities for engagement with industrial and academic partners.

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Members

Group leaders

Peter Ralph - Group Leader |C3 Executive Director | aquatic photosynthesis; photobiology; bio-optics; algae-biofactories

Bojan Tamburic - Group 2IC | Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Research Fellow | photobioreactors; bio-optics; biochemical engineering; algal biofuels

Staff

Justin Ashworth | Chancellor's Postdoctoral Research Fellow | marine microeukaryotes [diatoms], sicrobial systems biology and gene regulation, molecular function and evolution, bioengineering, synthetic biology

Audrey Commault | Research Assistant | biotechnology; molecular biology; biochemistry; electrochemistry

Joey Crosswell | Postdoctoral Research Associate | biogeochemistry; carbon cycling; chemical oceanography; environmental and electrical engineering

Christian Evenhuis | Postdoctoral Research Associate | physics; chemistry; mathematical modelling

Michele Fabris | Postdoctoral Research Associate | molecular biology

Jim Franklin | Visiting Fellow | optics

Unnikrishnan Kuzhiumparambil| Postdoctoral Research Associate | analytical chemistry

Tony Larkum - Emeritus Professor | plant physiology; algal photosynthesis; light-harvesting proteins; photosynthetic efficiency

Mathieu Pernice | Postdoctoral Research Associate | symbiosis; molecular physiology; genomics; genetic engineering of microalgae

David Suggett | ARC Future Fellow | active fluorescence; photosynthesis; alternative electron sinks; nutrient limitation; reactive oxygen

Milan Szabo - Postdoctoral Research Associate | photosynthesis; photoprotection, primary productivity; microalgae

Students

Jack Adriaans | Honours | Cultivation optimisation and recombinant protein expression profiles in GE microalgae

Annalisa Humphries | Honours | Bioactivity screening of micro and macro algae

Kenji Iwasaki| PhD Student | Investigation into the effect of light quality on secondary metabolite production by microalgae

Margaret Ramarajan | PhD Student | Algal Transformation Techniques

Nhan-An Tran | Honours | Bioflocculation of the green alga N. oculata by using a member of its own bacterial consortium

Oksana Vronska | PhD | Developing a harvesting process for algal biomass production

Navpreet Kaur Walia | PhD Student |Functional Profiling and Classification of the Algal Strains Based on Cellulose Degradation Efficiency

Peter Wood | PhD Student | Development of continuous and integrated system for anaerobic digestion and microalgal culturing

Alumni

Dale Radford| PhD Student | Optimisation of N. oculata biomass productivity under different environmental conditions in photobioreactors

John Hanna| Honours Student | Investigating C. vulgaris biomass production and nutrient uptake in photobioreactors

Facilities

Environmental photobioreactors (ePBRs)

500 mL vessels

Fully-controlled algal growth environment:

  • Light delivery
  • Temperature
  • Aeration and stirring
  • CO2 delivery
  • Nutrient dosing

Continual data logging

Optical probes

Fast-response, high-sensitivity pH, pO2 and pCO2 sensors

Quantify photosynthesis rates, gas exchange and carbonate chemistry

Fluorometers

Multi-colour PAM, Hex PAM, Imaging PAM, Microscopy PAM, Pocket PAM, Water PAM

Fast Repetition Rate Fluorometers

Spectrofluorometers (Cary Eclipse)

Light Engine (G&H OL490)

Quantify photosynthetic processes and algal health

Algae culturing facilities

Incubators and light/temperature-controlled rooms

PC2/AQIS accredited work areas

Molecular biology facilities

PCR and Real Time quantitative PCR machines

Next Generation Sequencing system (MiSeq)

Electroporation device for genetic transformation of microalgae

Chemical analysis tools

GC-MS and FTIR for lipids

IC for nutrients

HPLC for pigments

Microscopy and cytometry

High-resolution light microscope (DeltaVision OMX Blaze)

Inverted fluorescence microscope (Nikon Ti)

Laser-scanning confocal microscope (Nikon A1)

Single-cell isolation flow cytometer (BD Biosciences Influx)

Publications

        Malik A, Lenzen M, Ralph PJ & Tamburic B (2015). Hybrid life-cycle assessment of algal biofuel production. Bioresource Technology, 184, 436-443.

        Tamburic B, Evenhuis CR, Suggett DJ, Larkum AWD, Raven JA & Ralph PJ (2015). Gas transfer controls carbon limitation during biomass production by marine microalgae. ChemSusChem. 8(16), 2727-2736.

Tamburic B, Szabó M, Tran NT, Larkum AWD, Sugget DJ & Ralph P J (2014). Action spectra of oxygen production and chlorophyll a fluorescence in the green microalga Nannochloropsis oculata. Bioresource Technology, 169, 320–327.

Szabó M, Parker K, Guruprasad S, Kuzhiumparambil U, Lilley RM, Tamburic B, Schliep M, Larkum AWD, Schreiber U, Raven JA & Ralph PJ (2014). Photosynthetic acclimation of Nannochloropsis oculata investigated by multi-wavelength chlorophyll fluorescence analysis. Bioresource Technology, 167, 521–529.

Tamburic B, Guruprasad S, Radford DT, Szabó M, Lilley RM, Larkum A, Franklin JB, Kramer D, Blackburn SI, Raven J, Schliep MT & Ralph PJ (2014). The effect of diel temperature and light cycles on the growth of Nannochloropsis oculata in a photobioreactor matrix, PLoS ONE, 9, e86047.

Collaborators

Dr Susan Blackburn | Head of National Algae Culture Collection | CSIRO

Professor Ben Hankamer | Head of Chemistry and Structural Biology Division | University of Queensland

Professor David Kramer | Professor in Photosynthesis and Bioenergetics | Michigan State University

Professor Michael Kühl | Professor in Aquatic Microbial Ecology | University of Copenhagen

Professor John Raven | Emeritus Professor | University of Dundee

Algal bio-factory research projects

A range of undergraduate research , Honours and PhD projects available

Media

Newsroom: Algae building blooms

PODCAST: You scream, we scream, we all scream for algae

VIDEO: Algal Biofuel Research Program

VIDEO: Microalgae: the green gold of biotechnology

AUDIO: Algae biodiesel may be the future for renewable energy

PRESS: Helping algae grow has become a growth industry

The green stuff

Reports

Algae building feasibility report May 2016

Contact

Professor Peter Ralph
Phone: 02 9514 4203
Email: Peter.Ralph@uts.edu.au

Dr Bojan Tamburic
Phone: 02 9514 4068
Email: Bojan.Tamburic@uts.edu.au