SEC’s microalgae project employs Stellar electric field technology

Published: 1-Sep-2022

Developed by Bühler, the state-of-the-art Stellar Gemini system is based on electric fields to increase the efficiency of microalgae processing

Singapore-ETH Centre (SEC) and the Swiss company Bühler Group have announced the deployment of Bühler's Stellar Gemini system at SEC's Urban Microalgae Protein project laboratory in Singapore. The work aims to develop a sustainable, urban single-cell protein production platform and microalgae-based food concepts with taste and nutrition profiles that meet consumer preferences.

The three-year project is based in Singapore and is supported by the National Research Foundation Singapore (NRF) under its Campus for Research Excellence and Technological Enterprise (CREATE) programme.

"The Stellar technology will enable us to deliver industry-relevant results to improve the eco-efficiency and productivity of microalgae supply chains by establishing a pulsed electric field (PEF)-based biorefinery as part of the Urban Microalgae Protein project," said Dr Iris Haberkorn, project lead and senior scientist at SEC."

This is a step forward towards securing the supply of food and establishing resilient, sustainable agri-food systems

The first of its kind, Stellar technology uses nanosecond pulsed electric field processing to grow single-cell cultures, like microalgae, at a faster rate without biologically altering them. Stellar Gemini is the name of the device that enables the application of these pulses.

"The installed Stellar Gemini system enables application development and initial scale-up to pilot scale on a flexible and easy-to-use platform. Operators have access to Bühler's extensive know-how while having full flexibility for independent application development, ensuring maximum efficiency in process development," said Dr Leandro Buchmann, Project Manager Bioprocessing at Bühler.

"Nanosecond pulsed electric field processing can have a tremendous impact on the bio-based domain and the alternative protein sector focusing on single-cell-based value chains. Our research delivers the fundamentals to further leverage the technology," continued Dr Haberkorn. "This is a step forward towards securing the supply of food and establishing resilient, sustainable agri-food systems."

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The deployment of the Stellar technology system is a result of the strong longstanding collaboration between the Bühler Group and ETH Zurich, which supports the SEC Microalgae project with know-how, experience, and expertise.

"Not only is Stellar technology an outstanding example of technology transfer from academia into industry, it is also a great success story," said Prof. Alexander Mathys, lead Principal Investigator of the Urban Microalgae Protein project. "We are proud that the scientific fundamentals developed at the ETH Zurich Sustainable Food Processing Laboratory led to the development of a first industrial prototype system within only two years through the tremendous effort of a great team at Bühler, enabling us to deliver industry-relevant results in the project.

The project itself aims to enhance Singapore's food security by establishing resilient, sustainable and cost-effective agri-food systems using microalgae-based food products. In Singapore, the ambitious '30 by 30' target calls for an increase in capability and capacity to grow 30% of total food needs locally and sustainably by 2030.

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