School workshop boosts spirulina research collaboration with Thailand

In mid-May the School hosted a three-day workshop with industry and academic partners from Thailand, to explore technological improvements that promise to boost the commercial production of spirulina.

Industry-academia collaboration

The project, which brings together the School’s Dr Rupert Myers, Dr Sam Lau, and Dr Harvey Huang in collaboration with academic partner Ramkhamhaeng University and industry partner EnerGaia, aims to overcome two key technological challenges associated with the closed tank-based system that EnerGaia’s spirulina cultivation relies on: namely, high water usage and algae build-up.

Green superfood

Spirulina, which many know as a dark green powder available in health food shops, has been dubbed a ‘superfood’ and is known to be so nutritionally complete that NASA and the European Space Agency are exploring its use as a primary food source for astronauts on long space journeys.

It has also become an integral source of nutrition and farming in low-income countries including Africa and India, carrying the key benefits of being highly scalable and environmentally low-impact. The researchers believe that the food carries exciting potential in tackling the coming world food crisis.

International knowledge exchange

The collaboration is funded by the Royal Academy of Engineering's 'Industry-Academia Partnership' scheme, a branch of the UK Government's Newton Fund, which seeks to foster science and innovation partnerships that promote the economic development and welfare of developing countries.

In addition to unlocking productivity gains in spirulina cultivation, the collaboration will provide bioprocess engineering training for two of the School's Chemical Engineering Masters students at EnerGaia in Bangkok between June and December this year, plus a short visit for Ammara Akram, Dr Lau's PhD student, during summer.

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