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Alternative Biomass

Sustainable biomass production and integrated biorefinery concepts

The Alternative Biomass group develops biomass production systems in close collaboration with the biomass conversion and downstream processes in biorefineries. Besides the optimization of quality and yield of biomass, we try to minimize competition for land and resources as well as the environmental impact. The targeted development towards innovative, biomass-based products, generates new opportunities for novel value networks for a sustainable Bioeconomy While alternative biomass crops have mostly been grown for bioenergy purposes over the last decades, we focus on developing novel, value-adding products in combination with targeted circular processes in systemic approaches including production, conversion and recycling.

Based on this mission we focus on

Focus Areas

Sustainable biomass production for Bioeconomy

Exploring and expanding boundaries of biomass production in algal photobioreactors

Cultivation of algae is an option for the production of alternative biomass for materials, chemicals and biofuels and to sequester, on a large scale, nutrients from waste water effluents. Perspectives of growing microalgae as a crop, highlight some of the exceptional (energy) storage properties of microalgae regarding commercial exploitation. We develop novel photobioreactors and cultivation concepts and devices covering multiple scales, tailored for their application in science and economy.


Westerwalbesloh, C. ; Brehl, C. ; Weber, S. ; Probst, C. ; Widzgowski, J. ; Grünberger, A. ; Pfaff, C. ; Nedbal, L. ; Kohlheyer, D. A microfluidic photobioreactor for simultaneous observation and cultivation of single microalgal cells or cell aggregates PLOS ONE 14(4), e0216093 - (2019)

Loomba, V. ; Huber, G. ; von Lieres, E. Single-cell computational analysis of light harvesting in a flat-panel photo-bioreactor Biotechnology for biofuels 11(1), 149 (2018)

Schreiber, C. ; Behrendt, D. ; Huber, G. ; Pfaff, C. ; Widzgowski, J. ; Ackermann, B. ; Müller, A. ; Zachleder, V. ; Moudříková, Š. ; Mojzeš, P. ; Schurr, U. ; Grobbelaar, J. ; Nedbal, L. Growth of algal biomass in laboratory and in large-scale algal photobioreactors in the temperate climate of western Germany Bioresource technology 234, 140 - 149 (2017)

Perennial plants as a renewable resource

Perennial plants have a significant potential for production on marginal soils and, at the same time, to deliver novel biomass compositions. Tailor-made processes for adaptive lignocellulose processing can then be established to identify high value bio-based chemicals from the biomass sources.


Nabel, M. ; Schrey, S. ; Temperton, V. M. ; Harrison, L. ; Jablonowski, N. D. Legume Intercropping With the Bioenergy Crop Sida hermaphrodita on Marginal Soil Frontiers in plant science 9, 905 (2018)

Nabel, M. ; Schrey, S. ; Poorter, H. ; Koller, R. ; Nagel, K. ; Temperton, V. M. ; Dietrich, C. ; Briese, C. ; Jablonowski, N. D. Coming Late for Dinner: Localized Digestate Depot Fertilization for Extensive Cultivation of Marginal Soil With Sida hermaphrodita Frontiers in plant science 9, 1095 (2018)

Jablonowski, N. D. ; Kollmann, T. ; Nabel, M. ; Damm, T. ; Klose, H. ; Müller, M. ; Bläsing, M. ; Seebold, S. ; Krafft, S. ; Kuperjans, I. ; Dahmen, M. ; Schurr, U. Valorization of Sida ( Sida hermaphrodita ) biomass for multiple energy purposes Global change biology / Bioenergy 9(1), 202–214 (2017)

Identifying beneficial lignocellulosic traits for biomass cultivation and processing

As a prerequisite for developing efficient strategies for biomass utilisation and valorisation, it is important to understand plant cell wall structure and biosynthesis. Therefore, the elucidation of cell wall recalcitrance is intensively addressed. We screen different types of lignocellulosic biomass and microalgae for cell wall traits important for further processing but also for plant health. In these studies, especially the composition and structure and the bio-synthesis of cell walls is covered.


Damm, T. ; Pattathil, S. ; Günl, M. ; Jablonowski, N. D. ; O'Neill, M. ; Grün, K. S. ; Grande, P. M. ; Leitner, W. ; Schurr, U. ; Usadel, B. ; Klose, H. Insights into cell wall structure of Sida hermaphrodita and its influence on recalcitrance Carbohydrate polymers 168, 94 - 102 (2017)

Damm, T. ; Grande, P. M. ; Jablonowski, N. D. ; Thiele, B. ; Disko, U. ; Mann, U. ; Schurr, U. ; Leitner, W. ; Usadel, B. ; Domínguez de María, P. ; Klose, H. OrganoCat pretreatment of perennial plants: Synergies between a biogenic fractionation and valuable feedstocks Bioresource technology 244, 889 - 896 (2017)

Circular flows in agricultural production systems

Cycling nutrients using microalgal cultivation systems

Algae have a high capability to sequester nutrients from waste streams and therefore can play an important role in alternative concepts to recycle nutrients. We study the mechanisms and physiology behind the luxury uptake of nutrients by green microalgae and investigate concepts to utilize the algal biomass as a fertilizer in agricultural production.


Schreiber, C. ; Schiedung, H. ; Harrison, L. ; Briese, C. ; Ackermann, B. ; Kant, J. ; Schrey, S. ; Hofmann, D. ; Singh, D. ; Ebenhöh, O. ; Amelung, W. ; Schurr, U. ; Mettler-Altmann, T. ; Huber, G. ; Jablonowski, N. D. ; Nedbal, L. Evaluating potential of green alga Chlorella vulgaris to accumulate phosphorus and to fertilize nutrient-poor soil substrates for crop plants Journal of applied phycology 30(1), 1-10 (2018)

Moudříková, Š. ; Sadowsky, A. ; Metzger, S. ; Nedbal, L. ; Mettler-Altmann, T. ; Mojzeš, P. Quantification of Polyphosphate in Microalgae by Raman Microscopy and by a Reference Enzymatic Assay Analytical chemistry 89(22), 12006 - 12013 (2017)

Moudříková, Š. ; Nedbal, L. ; Solovchenko, A. ; Mojzeš, P. Raman microscopy shows that nitrogen-rich cellular inclusions in microalgae are microcrystalline guanine Algal Research 23, 216 - 222 (2017)

Valorising biogenic residues in agricultural processes

Biogenic residues from agricultural processes contain considerable amounts of carbon and plant nutrients. (Re)Introduction these residues into the soil, increases soil fertility while reducing dependency on mineral fertilizers. Following the idea of closed nutrient-loops, processed residues like struvite or ashes are investigated as soil conditioner or fertilizer.


Robles-Aguilar, A. A. ; Pang, J. ; Postma, J. A. ; Schrey, S. D. ; Lambers, H. ; Jablonowski, N. D. The effect of pH on morphological and physiological root traits of Lupinus angustifolius treated with struvite as a recycled phosphorus source Plant and soil 434(1-2), 65-78 (2019)

Grunert, O. ; Robles-Aguilar, A. A. ; Hernandez-Sanabria, E. ; Schrey, S. D. ; Reheul, D. ; Van Labeke, M. ; Vlaeminck, S. E. ; Vandekerckhove, T. G. L. ; Mysara, M. ; Monsieurs, P. ; Temperton, V. M. ; Boon, N. ; Jablonowski, N. D. Tomato plants rather than fertilizers drive microbial community structure in horticultural growing media Scientific Reports 9, 9561 (2019)

Integrated biorefinery concepts

Sustainable conversion of biomass favours a full valorisation of all major components, following the principles of green chemistry and engineering. Modern integrated biorefinery concepts combine adapted unit operations for the conversion of a diverse variety of biomass feedstocks. We develop novel concepts for biomass pretreatment and fractionation in combination with separation and purification steps. This leads to innovative, sustainable and economic biomass conversion systems that are adaptable to the different types of biomass and enable straightforward downstream processing.


Grande, P. M. ; Weidener, D. ; Dietrich S. K. ; Dama, M. ; Bellof, M. ; Maas, R. ; Pauly, M. ; Leitner, W. ; Klose, H. Domínguez de María, P. OrganoCat fractionation of Empty Fruit Bunches (EFB) from palm trees into Lignin, Sugars and Cellulose-Enriched Pulp accepted in ACS Omega (2019)

Weidener, D. ; Klose, H. ; Leitner, W. ; Schurr, U. ; Usadel, B. ; Domínguez de María, P. ; Grande, P. One-Step Lignocellulose Fractionation by using 2,5-Furandicarboxylic Acid as a Biogenic and Recyclable Catalyst ChemSusChem 11(13), 2051 - 2056 (2018)

Grande, P. M. ; Viell,J. ;Theyssen, N. ; Marquardt, W. ; Domínguez de María, P. ; Leitner, W. Fractionation of lignocellulosic biomass using the OrganoCat process. Green Chem. 2015, 17, 3533–3539