NTU Scientists Find Greener Palm Oil Alternative

  Algae Europe December 2022

A team of scientists led by Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) has developed a method to effectively produce and extract plant-based oils from a type of common microalgae. As the oils produced from the microalgae are edible and have superior properties as those found in palm oil, the newly discovered method could serve as a healthier and greener alternative to palm oil. 

Compared to palm oil, the oil derived from the microalgae contains more polyunsaturated fatty acids, which can help reduce ‘bad’ cholesterol levels in blood and lower a person’s risk of heart disease and stroke. The microalgae-produced oil, developed in collaboration with scientists from the University of Malaya, Malaysia, also contains fewer saturated fatty acids, which have been linked to stroke and related conditions. 

To produce the oils, pyruvic acid, an organic acid that occurs in all living cells, is added to a solution with the algae Chromochloris zofingiensis and exposed to ultraviolet light to stimulate photosynthesis. The NTU team has separately developed cost-cutting innovations to replace the microalgae culture medium with fermented soybean residues while improving the yield of microalgae biomass.

The results of the study were published in the peer-reviewed academic publication Journal of Applied Phycology in February.

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