A less investigated process for generating hydrogen is the photosynthesis by microalgae. However, the generation of hydrogen is only one of a number of alternatives to produce bioenergy by or from microalgae. Reasons for the principal interest in microalgae: Theoretically microalgae show high biomass yields per area, a corresponding CO2 fixation and potentially high oil contents. They are cultivated in ponds or closed bioreactors, require no specific soil quality and do not compete for land with food production. For nutrient supply waste water and CO2 containing exhaust gases can be used.
In the frame of support program "Basic research Energy 2020+", topic "Solar energy technology of the next generation" the joint project HydroMicPro is supplied by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. By combining biotechnology and process engineering innovative photo-bioreactors shall be developed in which genetically optimized microalgae shall produce efficiently and environmentally sound hydrogen. A milestone is the optimization of the biomass production.
Accompanying the R&D work the HydroMicPro technology is analyzed from the viewpoint of sustainability. Goal of the analysis is the identification of ecological and (socio-)economical hot spots of the technology and of optimal application fields in comparison to competing technologies. The work is done mainly in the scope of a doctoral theses (Annika Weiss). The applied methods are material flow and life cycle based (environmental Life Cycle Assessment - LCA, Life Cycle Costing - LCC). The project is divided into five work packages which are executed in strong cooperation with the partners.
- Basic system and method related definitions
- Data generation
- Calculation and LCA/LCC interpretation
- Analysis of additional sustainability aspects
Modelling and data will be up-dated in the course of the project according to the state of the technical work. The results of the up-dated LCA are feed back into the development process.