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Solazyme ‘breakthrough’ technology to produce renewable oils from microalgae

By Andrew McDougall+

Last updated on 09-Apr-2013 at 16:51 GMT2013-04-09T16:51:38Z

With technology as the hot topic in ingredient formulation right now, Solazyme’s senior director discusses how technology can accelerate microalgae's ability to produce many different types of renewable oils for personal care products, amongst others.

The San Francisco-headquartered company’s Health Sciences business targets the global skin and personal care market, estimated at $323 billion, developing microalgae-derived skin care products and has signed distribution deals with Sephora International, Sephora USA, and QVC.


Walter Rakitsky, Ph.D, took to the stage at the 245th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS) to explain that microalgae are the original oil producers on earth, and that all of the oil-producing machinery present in higher plants resides within these single-cell organisms.

"For the first time in history, we have unlocked the ability to completely design and tailor oils," he said in his keynote speech.

"This breakthrough allows us to create oils optimized for everything from high-performance jet and diesel fuel to renewable chemicals to skin-care products and heart-healthy food oils. These oils could replace or enhance the properties of oils derived from the world's three dominant sources: petroleum, plants and animals."

Solazyme's biotechnology platform unlocks the microalgae properties, achieving over 80 percent oil within each individual cell at commercial scale while changing the triglyceride oil paradigm by their ability to tailor the oil profiles by carbon chain and saturation.

Game changer

The company claims that the ability to produce multiple oils in a matter of days out of one plant location using standard industrial fermentation is a “game-changer.”

Unlike other algal oil production processes, in which algae grow in open ponds, Solazyme grows microalgae in total darkness in the same kind of fermentation vats used to produce vinegar, medicines and scores of other products.

Instead of sunlight, energy for the microalgae's growth comes from low-cost, plant-based sugars. This gives the company a completely consistent, repeatable industrial process to produce tailored oil at scale, explains Rakitsky.

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