Visiting researcher - Dr Jim Gilmour (University of Sheffield) to present on microalgal biofuels - fact or fantasy?

Start date and time

Wednesday 13 November 2019


Edinburgh Napier University (Sighthill Campus)

Microalgal Biofuels – Fact or Fantasy?

Microalgae have been used commercially since the 1950s and 1960s, particularly in the Far East for human health foods and in the US for wastewater treatment. Initial attempts to produce bulk chemicals such as biofuels from microalgae were not successful, despite commercially favourable conditions during the 1970s oil crisis. However, research initiatives at this time, many using extremophilic microalgae and cyanobacteria (e.g. Dunaliella and Spirulina), did solve many problems and clearly identified biomass productivity and harvesting as the two main constraints stopping microalgae producing bulk chemicals, such as biofuels, on a large scale. In response to the growing unease around global warming, induced by anthropogenic CO2 emissions, microalgae were again suggested as a carbon-neutral process to produce biofuels. In the last 10 years, a large body of scientific publications have appeared on all aspects of microalgae biotechnology, but with a clear emphasis on neutral lipid (triacylglycerol) synthesis and the use of neutral lipids as precursors for biodiesel production. In the seminar, organised by Professor Ian Singleton, the key research trends in microalgal biotechnology will be discussed with emphasis on the research carried out by the Sheffield Algal Biotechnology group.

Dr Jim Gilmour graduated from the University of Glasgow with BSc (1979) and PhD (1983) degrees and then did postdoc work at the University of Wurzburg (then West Germany) and the University of Liverpool. In 1985, he moved to the University of Sheffield to join the microbiology department, which soon after became part of the molecular biology and biotechnology department. His research interests started with salt effects on photosynthesis in halotolerant algae, then extremophiles in general (bacteria, archaea, yeast) and then back to the algae with the emphasis on biotechnology. He has always carried out research, but at times has acted as a director of teaching, deputy head of department and is currently co-ordinating taught Masters courses.