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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.
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.
WATCH: Algal Biofuels Research Program at University of Technology, SydneyTranscript
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
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
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
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
Environmental photobioreactors (ePBRs)
500 mL vessels
Fully-controlled algal growth environment:
- Light delivery
- Aeration and stirring
- CO2 delivery
- Nutrient dosing
Continual data logging
Fast-response, high-sensitivity pH, pO2 and pCO2 sensors
Quantify photosynthesis rates, gas exchange and carbonate chemistry
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)
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.
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
A range of undergraduate research , Honours and PhD projects available
Professor Peter Ralph
Phone: 02 9514 4203
Dr Bojan Tamburic
Phone: 02 9514 4068