Casella Patrizia

Researcher, ENEA

14th February


Speech: The VALUEMAG project: from microalgae to macro benefits for the human health

Molino(a,*), P. Casellaa, R. Balducchib, D. Karatzac, A. Ferrarod, D. Musmarrac, E. Hristoforoud

In recent years, the developed interest in microalgae is due to their ability to produce high added value compounds. Among the products obtained from microalgae, the most requested are colouring substances, such as carotenoids, with vitaminic and/or antioxidant properties, and polyunsaturated fatty acids, due to omega-3 content, such as eicosapanthenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexanoic acid (DHA). Their applications in the industrial fields are mainly addressed to the food and feed sector as colouring and vitamin additives, to the nutraceutical sector as supplements, and to the cosmetic sector as humectants or colouring agents. The use of bio-based microalgae products in the feed sector is also very much in demand in the aquaculture sector, where feed with natural additives is increasingly needed for the health of the consumer, the farmed product and the sustainability of the sector in relation to the environment.

Nowadays, astaxanthin, a red-brown carotenoid and oils rich in EPA and DHA are the most widely used additives in aquaculture. However, astaxanthin, which is added as a feed additive to salmonids to give their flesh a reddish colour, is still of a synthetic nature or is produced by Phaffia rhodozyma yeast, while the feed is enriched with EPA and DHA by the use of fish oil. Although astaxanthin is produced by the microalgae Haematococcus pluvialis and EPA and DHA rich oils are produced by several microalgae strains in larger quantities than current sources, their application is uncompetitive due to the costs of microalgae cultivation and extraction.

In this sense, the VALUEMAG project (Valuable Products from Algae Using new Magnetic Cultivation and Extraction Techniques), funded by the Bio based Industry Joint Undertaking (BBI JU), aims to develop an innovative microalgae cultivation system based on a magnetic conical photobioreactor to increase the productivity of microalgae species for the production of carotenoids (beta-carotene, lutein and astaxanthin) and omega 3 (EPA and DHA) and reduce their cultivation costs. During the last decades to improve microalgae cultivation considerable effort has been put on the design of photobioreactors, and, even though, a good efficiency has been archived the running costs are still too high. VALUEMAG project is developing a methodology that allows to introduce biocompatible magnetic nanoparticles inside selected microalgae cells. Once magnetically modified, such cells will be immobilized on top of a magnetic surface and constantly exposed to light while a very thin layer of water will favor gas exchange. This new type of magnetic photo bioreactor is installed on a growth-chamber with CO2 enriched air. All together these innovation could dramatically reduce the running costs and improve the quality of microalgae production. Another objective is the implementation of carotenoids and omega-3 extraction processes through the use of GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) solvents such as acetone and ethanol and supercritical fluids such as CO2 (CO2-SFE). These technologies allow in fact to avoid the toxicity of organic solvents and to optimize the recovery of these bio-products for their better inclusion in the feed and the nutraceutical market.



This project has received funding from the Bio Based Industries Joint Undertaking under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation under the grant agreement No. 755695

a ENEA, Italian National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development (ENEA), Piazzale Enrico Fermi 1, 80055 Portici, NA, Italy
b ENEA, Italian National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development (ENEA), SS Jonica 106-km 419+500, 75026 Rotonella (MT), Italy
c Department of Engineering, University of Campania “L. Vanvitelli”, 81031 Aversa, Italy
d Laboratory of electronic sensors, School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, National Technical University of Athens, Zografou Campus, 9, Iroon Polytechniou str, 15780 Athens, Greece
*Corresponding author: Antonio Molino; e-mail:

Curriculum Vitae