An approaching global phosphorus crisis and microalgal biotechnology: A growing problem & strategies for effective use
Other conference contribution, 2015

Phosphorus (P) is a critical element for life on Earth. However, readily extractable ores are being exhausted rapidly and a combination of increasing usage, rising costs and numerous geopolitical problems are expected to impact food security and industry sectors within the next few decades. This hence represents another great anthropogenic challenge and near-future issue. P is needed in the production of microalgal biomass; indeed the value of P in microalgae is similar or exceeds that of the potential biofuels, demanding a 100% recovery and recycling of P. However, unlike nitrogen (N) sources (that can be synthesised) for which the relationship of cell-contents and growth is linear, the need for P is less clearly understood. We have empirically explored the interaction between P supply and microalgal production and biochemical composition. P usage could be at least halved relative to the use of N, while maintaining adequate growth of Nannochloropsis. Indeed, by deploying certain strategies, the amount of P required to produce 1 kg of biomass can be decreased from 2.4 g to 0.85 g (65% reduction). The quantitative effects of dual N- and P-limitation on biochemical composition, fatty acid profile and biodiesel quality were also evaluated in a greater detail than has previously been reported. The replacement of inorganic nutrients with those obtained from waste nutrient streams was examined and also proved to be a successful strategy in decreasing resource consumption. P usage in the broader context of large-scale microalgal cultivation will be put into context with information critical for algal physiology, practitioners and LCA development.


Joshua Mayers

Chalmers, Biology and Biological Engineering, Industrial Biotechnology

Eva Albers

Chalmers, Biology and Biological Engineering, Industrial Biotechnology

Kevin J. Flynn

Swansea University

lgal Biomass Organisation Algal Biomass Summit
Washington DC, USA,

Upgrading of renewable domestic raw materials to value-added bulk and fine chemicals for a biobased economy: technology development, systems integration and environmental impact assessment (BioBuF)

Formas (213-2013-78), 2013-06-17 -- 2018-12-31.

Region Västra Götaland (RUN612-0806-13), 2013-11-01 -- 2018-10-31.

Driving Forces

Sustainable development

Subject Categories

Industrial Biotechnology

Other Environmental Engineering

Bioprocess Technology

Areas of Advance


Life Science Engineering (2010-2018)


Basic sciences



More information

Latest update

2/3/2020 1