The second of the series of Café Scientifique was organized by RCIPS on 10 September 2013 in a cocktail hour salon setting at the Irma Stern Museum. The concept behind these gatherings is to present a showcase of the major inventions in the University's portfolio as an outreach initiative to the wider community and to potential commercial and investor interests. The forum provides an ideal opportunity to explore cutting-edge ideas in science and technology and encourage off-the-cuff discussion and lively debate in a relaxed environment outside of the traditional academic context. Professor Sue Harrison of the Centre for Bioprocess Engineering (CeBER) presented a talk entitled Magnificent Microalgae: the Potential for Fuel, Fine Chemicals and Fixing Global Warming. Her talk outlined the wide array of possibilities offered by algal biotechnology. She fielded some great questions from the audience and there was a good general interaction, in the spirit of a Café Scientifique, which succeeded in generating a dialogue rather than a presentation. If you would like to attend future events, please email Candice Jacobs.
Professor Sue Harrison of the Centre for Bioprocess Engineering (CeBER) presented a talk entitled Magnificent Microalgae: the Potential for Fuel, Fine Chemicals and Fixing Global Warming. Her talk outlined the wide array of possibilities offered by algal biotechnology and showed how South Africa is uniquely positioned to take advantage of this technology. These amazing algae could provide an economic and sustainable answer to alternative energy and CO2 mitigation. An algal bio-refinery could integrate production of a range of functional fine chemicals, organic pigments, algal oils, nutritional supplements, feeds and energy products. Prof Harrison holds the SA Research Chair in Bioprocess Engineering and is the director of CeBER where biological systems, mostly microbial, are explored as the central element of processes for bioenergy, value from waste, metal extraction and commodity production. She outlined the considerable benefits of these processes in terms of fast production of biomass, lessened seasonal dependence and tolerance of varying salinity levels. The value-added products coming out of these processes fell into two big groups. Firstly, the high-value molecules, such as EPA and DPA oils, anti-oxidants and nutriceuticals, which entailed smaller production scales and higher profit margins. Secondly, commodity products such as fish and animal feedstocks, protein foods and algal energy products relating to carbon capture and fuels. These include algal oils which can be variously converted to bio-diesel, combusted, fermented, digested into methane and so on. These products require high production volumes and smaller margins. In conclusion, Prof Harrison stressed the importance of acting fast to capitalising on the current international market for South African algal products before the big global players were diverted to competitive sources of algae in other countries around the globe.
Café Scientifique events are made possible through the generous sponsorship of the Technology Innovation Agency.
The next Café Scientifique is on 10 September at the Irma Stern Museum at 18h00. Dr George Vicatos will discuss the latest breakthroughs in surgical implants.