Biochemical Engineering is a branch of chemical engineering that applies engineered processes to biological organisms or systems, such as bioreactors. It can be used in industries such as agriculture, energy, pharmaceutical manufacture or sewage treatment.
Graduate student Hector de la Hoz Siegler, in conjunction with supervisors William McCaffrey and Amos Ben-Zvi, focuses on maximizing algae oil production for use in biodiesel. This is a tricky balance to achieve, since algae will only produce useable quantities of oil if they’re being deprived of nitrogen: too little nitrogen means no algal growth but too much nitrogen means not enough oil. “Using the mathematical model we’ve created, we’ve seen oil production increase by 20 times,” says de la Hoz Siegler. “This is a greater value than any other reported algae system.” He is also quick to point out that the applications of his findings aren’t limited to energy production. “Algae can also produce lots of bulk and fine chemicals - our focus is simply to learn more about optimizing bioprocesses.”
algae cultures (A. Protothecoides)