Microalgal fuels: Promising energy reserves for the future

Ranjna Sirohi, Hong Il Choi, Sang Jun Sim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Traditional methods of fuel production and consumption result in the emission of huge quantities of CO2, leading to a rise in the Earth's surface temperature. This has driven the scientific community to look for alternate sources of fuels that could fulfil the current energy demands, while reducing CO2 emissions. Microalgae have garnered substantial interest as an excellent biological resource for biorefineries, given their abilities to accumulate diverse CO2-derived bioproducts, such as various forms of fuels, chemical building blocks, and pharmaceuticals; this could be interpreted as an efficient method for storing solar energy by biological means. Microalgal biomass is free from ethical debates because it does not compete with food production for fertile arable lands and clean water for their cultivation, which makes the entire process highly sustainable. Microalgal biomass-derived fuels for each end-use can be obtained via several processes, including drying, chemical, and physical lipid-extraction methods, anaerobic digestion, and thermochemical treatments (e.g., pyrolysis, torrefaction, hydrothermal carbonization, liquefaction, and gasification). This review aims to critically explore the process layouts, their operation conditions (including catalysts), and expected outputs related to fuel production. It also provides a comprehensive overview of the most notable and promising strategies for the producing energy resources from various species of microalgae. Pretreatment of microalgal biomass, followed by bioconversion strategies, such as hydrothermal carbonization and photo-fermentation, along with genomics-based approaches, can lead to higher yields of microalga-derived solid, liquid, and gaseous fuels.

Original languageEnglish
Article number122841
Publication statusPublished - 2022 Mar 15

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors are grateful for the funds provided by Korea Carbon to X R&D Center (2020M3H7A1098295) and the National Research Foundation (NRF-2019R1A2C3009821 / NRF-2020R1A5A1018052) of the Ministry of Science and ICT of Korea.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Elsevier Ltd


  • Gaseous fuels
  • Liquid fuels
  • Microalgae
  • Solid fuels
  • Thermochemical conversion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemical Engineering
  • Fuel Technology
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • Organic Chemistry


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