Dr v sivasubramanian


Director- Tech, Phycospectrum Environmental Research Centre (PERC), 52A, AK Block, 7th Main Road, Anna Nagar, Chennai 600040, India and Director, Vivekananda Institute of Algal Technology (VIAT), Ramakrishna Mission Vidyapith, Chennai 600004, India. Executive Editor, Journal of Algal Biomass Utilization (JABU). Member of expert committee of Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), New Delhi, on Second generation bio-fuels. Member of Monitoring Committee on Algal Biofuels, Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Member of project advisory and monitoring committee (PAMC) on CO2 sequestration projects of Department of Science and Technology (DST) and member of monitoring committee in projects on algal biofuels of Department of Biotechnology (DBT), New Delhi. . Ph: 091-044-24813960; Mobile: +91 9677144453; +91 9381487310; +91 9444151677. Email

Second Generation Bio-fuels from algae

Current status of Research on algal bio-fuels in India

Energy consumers – Pollution producers

India is the sixth largest and one of the fastest growing energy consumers in the world due to raising population and consumption power of India. Vehicular pollution contributes to about 70% to the total air pollution and is estimated to have increased 8 times in the last 2 decades.
Banking on Bio-fuel
Due to limited crude oil reserves, India meets about 72% of its crude oil and petroleum products requirements through imports, which are expected to expand further in coming years. Bio-fuels promise to be an appropriate option to be fixed as a solution to these problems. Bio-fuels have been developing in stages and have come up a long way. Bio-fuels were produced initially using waste oil as raw material and then as the demand rose up various generations of technologies using different raw materials mushroomed up as options for bio-fuels production.
Attention Algae
Various companies and research setups for algal fuels are coming up and are backed by big investors in India. Algae have recently received a lot of attention as a new biomass source for the production of renewable energy. Some of the main characteristics which set algae apart from other biomass sources are that algae (can) have a high biomass yield per unit of light and area, can have a high oil or starch content, do not require agricultural land, fresh water is not essential and nutrients can be supplied by wastewater and CO2 by combustion gas.

Small (Micro) is Successful
The first distinction that needs to be made is between macro algae (or seaweed) versus microalgae. Microalgae can provide several different types of renewable bio-fuels. These include methane produced by anaerobic digestion of the algal biomass [1] biodiesel derived from micro algal oil [2, 3, 4] and photo biologically produced bio-hydrogen [5, 6 ]. The idea of using microalgae as a source of fuel is not new [7, 8 ] but it is now being taken seriously because of the escalating price of petroleum and, more significantly, the emerging concern about global warming that is associated with burning fossil fuels [9].
Low-value High-volume
Bio-ethanol is currently being produced by fermentation of sugars found in plants such as sugarcane and corn. Many social concerns have barred the adoption of their future use, so other feedstock is being considered as substitutes. Algae are one of that feedstock. Algae do not produce as much starch as corn, and do not have firm agricultural practices. However, there is reason to believe that algae will play a role in the future bio-ethanol market. In order to lower the cost of producing this fuel, other products from algae will have to be processed and sold. Bio-ethanol is one of those products. Using everything that algae have to offer is the best route towards more favorable economic models for these low-value high-volume products
Indian contribution towards algal bio-fuels research
Macro algae:
Extensive work has been done by Indian scientists on utilization of seaweeds for food and pharmaceutical applications.  In India, seaweeds collected from natural vegetation are used for the production of phycocolloids such as agar and alginates. CSMCRI has long been working on the cultivation of various seaweeds and recently forayed into value addition for seaweed products. Seaweeds like Gracilaria, Gelidium, Kappaphycus etc are being cultivated in large scale.  Rengasamy, CAS in Botany, University of Madras, has also successfully demonstrated outdoor cultivation of two species of Sargassum for the first time (10). But very few investigators have concentrated on bio-fuels from seaweeds.  CSMCRI, Bhavanagar for the first time in India has been able to produce ethanol using a seaweed polysaccharide. Rengasamy and his team have successfully developed a technology to produce biogas from seaweeds (11). More work has to be done before these can be commercialized.
Micro algae:
Freshwater algae
Ravishankar and his team from Plant Cell Biotechnology Department, Central Food Technological Research Institute, Mysore have done extensive work on isolation and characterization of hydrocarbon producing micro alga Botryococcus braunii from Indian waters.(12, 13,  14,  15 ) Recently, Rengasamy and his team from University of Madras have successfully cultivated Botryococcus braunii in open raceway pond without any contamination (16, 17, 18 ).
SIMRAT KAUR1, GOGOI, SRIVASTAVA and KALITA from Bio-energy Division, Defense Research Laboratory, Tezpur 784 001, India and Department of Biotechnology, Gauhati University, India have done preliminary work on Algal diversity as a renewable feedstock for biodiesel (19)
Thajuddin from Bharathidasan University, Tiruchirappalli, Tamilnadu has started working on algal biodiesel production from micro algae (20)
Algal biomass production integrated with Phycoremediation
Algae visiting Industries
V Sivasubramanian and his team from Vivekananda Institute of Algal technology (VIAT), Chennai, have been involved in developing algae based technology to treat industrial effluents and wastewater. Algal technology for treating effluents has been implemented in a number of industries by VIAT for the past 10 years. Algae based solution has been delivered to alginate industry, leather processing chemicals industry, detergent industry, electroplating industry, confectionery industry, textile dyeing industries, oil drilling effluent treatment plant and more recently copper smelting industry (21, 22, 23,  24,  25,  26,  27).
Say NO to Chemicals
The main advantage of phycoremediation is complete avoidance of chemicals normally employed by various industries to correct pH, remove colour and odour, remove sludge etc. The industries save lot of chemicals and huge amount of energy. Algal technology involves maintenance of the critical level of algal biomass for effective remediation of effluents.
First Step
World’s First Phycoremediation plant to treat industrial effluent was commissioned in SNAP Natural and Alginate products at Ranipet, Tamilnadu based on the research support from VIAT (31). This industry generates huge volume of highly acidic effluent with a high TDS. Algal technology is being effectively employed to correct pH and reduce sludge with lots of benefits to industry as well as to the environment. In the process this industry also generates huge amount of algal biomass which is being incorporated into a bio-fertilizer product. VIAT is working on other possibilities of utilizing algal biomass including biogas, bio-ethanol and biodiesel. Studies conducted by VIAT have shown that algae grown in the effluent is highly suitable for biodiesel application.
Following Steps
Other industrial effluents which VIAT has found favourable for algal biomass production are textile dyeing industry effluent and effluents from confectionery industries. VIAT has successfully grown Chlorella species in confectionery industry effluent to correct pH and remove sugars. Chlorella sp grown in confectionery effluent produces higher amount of lipids. One of the textile dyeing industries which employs algal technology to remove dyes and reduce BOD and COD, is harvesting algae, dry the slurry and the dried algal cakes are being used in boilers along with firewood. The calorific value of algal cake has been analyzed by VIAT and it was found to be superior.
Welcome Sludge!
Sludge produced by various industries could be also used as nutrient source for growing certain types of micro algae. VIAT has investigated the biochemistry of sludge grown algae and found highly suitable for biodiesel production.
Don’t Waste “WASTE”
Algal biomass production integrated with remediation is the best option since it will not encroach upon agricultural land and water. Growing algae in waste water will make the whole process very cost-effective and economically viable. Balasubramanian Ramakrishnan (2009) from Laboratory of Soil Microbiology, Division of Soil Science and Microbiology, Central Rice Research Institute, Cuttack, Orissa has done investigations on biomass production potential of waste water alga Chlorella vulgaris. (28)
Marine phytoplankton:
Many research laboratories in India are also involved in developing biodiesel technology based on marine phytoplankton species including diatoms. Rengasamy and his team from University of Madras are in the process of isolation and characterization of suitable marine phytoplankton for biodiesel production (29). Ramachandra, Durga Madhab Mahapatra, and Karthick have done studies on bio-fuels production from species of diatoms (30). Vivekananda Institute of Algal technology (VIAT) has been working on cultivation of selected diatoms species in seawater and extraction of oil. Work on standardization of nutrient supplement, harvesting and extraction is complete. Further work is on progress to optimize other parameters to enhance the production of oil by diatoms in pilot scale open race way ponds. Oil percentage of 30 to 40 % could be achieved.
Indian research should focus on…

  1. Identification of suitable strains of algae which will perform uniformly during all seasons with consistently good biomass productivity
  2. Integrate biomass production with waste treatment
  3. Harvesting and extraction technologies to be standardized
  4. Production of nutraceutically and pharmaceutically valuable products from algae
  5. Indigenous photobioreactors and hybrid systems to be developed
  6. Collaborate at the national as well as international level to develop the technology

Hurdles to overcome

  1. the need to select and grow highly productive lipid-rich algal strains
  2. the difficulty of maintaining selected species in outdoor culture;
  3. the few commercial plants in operation, and limited availability of data on large-scale microalgae cultures;
  4. the high energy inputs required for water pumping, CO2 transfer, mixing the culture suspension and harvesting/dewatering the algal biomass,

The interest in microalgae for oil production is due to the high lipid content of some species, and to the fact that lipid synthesis, especially of the non-polar TAGs, which are the best substrate to produce biodiesel, can be modulated by varying growth conditions.
(1) nutrient-sufficient cultures having a relatively low lipid content, but able         to attain high biomass productivity (one-phase strategy in nutrient sufficient medium)
(2) nutrient-limited cultures of lower productivity, but with a lipid content high     enough to compensate for the productivity loss (one-phase strategy in nutrient-limited medium)
(3) a two-phase strategy, with a first nutrient-sufficient biomass production phase followed by a lipid induction phase under nutrient          deprivation.
Knowledge gaps
More research however, is relatively young and disperse and most importantly on a very small scale. To prove the viability of algae concepts, more information is needed on the economics of the process: optimized costs of the different inputs, but also the market value and market size of the outputs, not only fuels but also higher-value compounds.
Enhancement of Economic Feasibility of Biofuels from Microalgae
Biorefinery Approach:
The high-value co product strategy
The term bio-refinery was coined to describe the production of a wide range of chemicals and bio-fuels from biomasses by the integration of bio-processing and appropriate low environmental impact chemical technologies in a cost-effective and environmentally sustainable
Microalgae have the capacity of producing a vast array of high-value bioactive compounds that can be used as pharmaceutical compounds, health foods, and natural pigments.
The economical feasibility of micro algal bio-fuel production should be significantly enhanced by a high-value co product strategy, which would, conceptually, involve sequentially the cultivation of microalgae in a micro algal farming facility (CO2 mitigation), extracting bio-reactive products from harvested algal biomass, thermal processing (pyrolysis, liquefaction, or gasification), extracting high-value chemicals from the resulting liquid, vapor, and/or solid phases, and reforming/ upgrading bio-fuels for different applications. The employment of a high value co product strategy through the integrated bio-refinery approach is expected to significantly enhance the overall cost effectiveness of micro algal bio-fuel production.


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  2. Thomas, F.R., 2006. Algae for liquid fuel production Oakhaven Permaculture center. Retrieved on 2006-12-18. Permaculture Activist, 59: 1-2.
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  4. Banerjee, A., R.S. harma, Y. Chisti and U.C. Banerjee, 2002. Botryococcus braunii: A renewable source of hydrocarbons and other chemicals. Crit. Rev. Biotechnol., 22: 245-279
  5. Gavrilescu, M. and Y. Chisti, 2005. Biotechnology-a sustainable alternative for chemical industry. Biotechnol. Adv., 23: 471-99.
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  7. Kapdan, I.K. and F. Kargi, 2006. Bio-hydrogen production from waste materials. Enzyme Microbiol. Technol., 38: 569-82.
  8. Chisti, Y., 1980-1981. An unusual hydrocarbon. J. Ramsay Soc., 27-28: 24-26
  9. Sawayama, S., S. Inoue, Y. Dote and S.Y. Yokoyama, 1995. CO2 fixation and oil production through microalga. Energy Convers Manage., 36: 729-31.
  10. R. Rengasamy - Demonstration and Extension of Culture and Cultivation of Alginophytes,   Sargassum polycystem C. Agardh and S. wightii, Grev. 2008 – 2011, DST
  11. R. Rengasamy - Potential of Seaweed and Seagrass for biogas Production. Aguagri, New Delhi. August 2008 – February 2009
  12. Chandrappa Dayananda, Ravi Sarada, Vinod Kumar and Gokare Aswathanarayana Ravishankar 2007. Isolation and characterization of hydrocarbon producing green alga Botryococcus braunii from Indian freshwater bodies. Electronic Journal of Biotechnology, Vol.10 No.1.
  13. DAYANANDA, C.; SARADA, R.; BHATTACHARYA, S. and RAVISHANKAR, G.A. Effect of media and culture conditions on growth and hydrocarbon production by Botryococcus braunii. Process Biochemistry, September 2005, vol. 40, no. 9, p. 3125-3131
  14. DAYANANDA, C.; SARADA, R.; SRINIVAS, P.; SHAMALA, T.R. and RAVISHANKAR, G.A. Presence of methyl branched fatty acids and saturated hydrocarbons in botryococcene producing strain of Botryococcus braunii. Acta Physiologiae Plantarum, 2006, vol. 28, no. 3, p. 251- 256
  15. TRIPATHI, U.; SARADA, R. and RAVISHANKAR, G.A. 2001. A culture method for micro algal forms using two-tier vessel providing carbon-dioxide environment: studies on growth and carotenoids production. World Journal of Microbiology and Biotechnology, June 2001, vol. 17, no. 4, p. 325-329
  16. R Rengasamy - Development of germplasm of Botryococcus braunii strains isolated from South Indian water bodies for hydrocarbon production, 2007-2008, Aban Informatics, Pvt., Ltd.
  17. Mass culture of Botryococcus braunii under open cultivation system for bio diesel production. Aban Informatics, Pvt., Ltd. 2008- 2009.
  18. Optimization of conditions for mass culture of Botryococcus braunii under open race way ponds. Aban Informatics Pvt. Ltd. Chennai, 2008 – 2009
  19. SIMRAT KAUR1, H. K. GOGOI, R. B. SRIVASTAVA and M. C. KALITA 2009. Algal diversity as a renewable feedstock for biodiesel. CURRENT SCIENCE, VOL. 96, NO. 2
  20. N Thajuddin - Pilot scale demonstration of Algal oil production with a target of at least 100 litres of oil production / month, DBT, 2009 – 2011
  21. Mohan, N., S. Sivasankaran, P. Hanumantha Rao, R. Ranjith Kumar and V. Sivasubramanian 2009. Studies on Mass Cultivation of Micro-Algae and Effective Harvesting of Biomass by Low-cost Methods. Presented in International Conference on Algal biomass, resources and utilization, held at Stella Maris College, Chennai from 27th to 30th July 2009
  22. Gurukasi Rajan, K., K. Dhandayuthapani, M. Muthukumaran, V.V. Subramanian and V.Sivasubramanian. 2009. Studies on the Micro alga Chlorococcum humicola for the establishment of its potential in biodiesel production. Presented in International Conference on Algal biomass, resources and utilization, held at Stella Maris College, Chennai from 27th to 30th July 2009
  23. Ranjithkumar, R, V.V. Subramanian and V. Sivasubramanian. 2009. Phycoremediation of acidic effluent from a confectionary industry near Chennai. Presented in International Conference on Algal biomass, resources and utilization, held at Stella Maris College, Chennai from 27th to 30th July 2009
  24. V. Sivasubramanian, V. V. Subramanian, P. A. Raju and M. Muthukumaran. 2009. Phycoremediation Of Oil Drilling Waste At Kakinada, Andhrapradesh. Presented in International Conference on Algal biomass, resources and utilization, held at Stella Maris College, Chennai from 27th to 30th July 2009
  25. Hanumantha Rao,P,  R. Ranjith Kumar, B. Govinda Raghavan, V.V. Subramanian and V. Sivasubramanian. 2009. Phycoremediation of Effluent from a Leather Processing Chemical Industry. Presented in International Conference on Algal biomass, resources and utilization, held at Stella Maris College, Chennai from 27th to 30th July 2009
  26. Murugesan, S, V. Sivasubramanian and K. Altaff 2009. Nutritional evaluation and culture of freshwater live food organisms on Catla Catla. Presented in International Conference on Algal biomass, resources and utilization, held at Stella Maris College, Chennai from 27th to 30th July 2009
  27. Bharanidharan,M,  M. Muthukumaran, P. Sumathi, V.V. Subramanian and V. Sivasubramanian 2009. Biochemical Profile of Micro Alga, Desmococcus oliviaceus,  Employed for Remediation of Chrome Sludge From an Electroplating Industry. Presented in International Conference on Algal biomass, resources and utilization, held at Stella Maris College, Chennai from 27th to 30th July 2009
  28. Senthil Chinnasamy , Balasubramanian Ramakrishnan , Ashish Bhatnagar  and Keshav C. Das. 2009. Biomass Production Potential of a Wastewater Alga Chlorella vulgaris ARC 1 under Elevated Levels of CO2 and Temperature. Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2009, 10, 518-532
  29. R Rengasamy - Isolation of Marine Phytoplankton for Biodiesel Production Products. ABLF – Associates of Biotechnology Ltd. Enterprises. Bangalore. July 2008 – January 2009
  30. T. V. Ramachandra, Durga Madhab Mahapatra, and Karthick B. Milking Diatoms for Sustainable Energy: Biochemical Engineering versus Gasoline-Secreting Diatom Solar Panels. Ind. Eng. Chem. Res.
  31. V. Sivasubramanian, V.V. Subramanian, B.G. Raghavan and R. Ranjithkumar 2009 Large scale phycoremediation of acidic effluent from an alginate industry. ScienceAsia 35 (2009): 220-226(ABSTRACT)

Research on bio-diesel from algae

Micro algae are very efficient convertors of solar energy. Being photosynthetic, algae utilize atmospheric carbon di oxide to produce oil. The productivity is much higher when compared to land crops. Water requirement is also very low when compared to other agricultural crops.
Algal technology will not compete with the existing technologies and will not encroach upon agricultural land and precious freshwater. Algae being very simple organisms have the ability to adapt to any hostile conditions and still maintain the productivity.
Research work carried out:
Several marine micro algae isolated from sea were screened for growth, productivity, pigments and biochemical constituents like protein, carbohydrate and lipids. Experiments to optimize parameters to obtain higher growth rates associated with enhanced oil production were conducted.
Laboratory Studies

  1. to enhance photosynthetic rate
  2. to increase biomass yield and lipid production
  3. to minimize the cost of nutrients by switching over to cheaper sources like industrial effluents and wastewaters
  4. to minimize cost on drying algae before lipid extraction through other physical and chemical methods
  5. to grow micro algae in open raceway ponds without contamination During the pilot plant trials valuable data on growth, physiology , nutrient requirement and oil production were collected which will be helpful when scaling up.