Prospects for Commercial Production of Diatoms

Michael Seibert, Jaw-Kai Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

107 Scopus Citations


In this review, a simple procedure that portends the open-pond growth of commercially viable diatoms is discussed. We examined a number of topics relevant to the production and harvesting of diatoms as well as topics concerning the production of bioproducts from diatoms. Among the former topics, we show that it is currently possible to continuously grow diatoms and control the presence of invasive species without chemical toxins at an average annual yield of 132 MT dry diatoms ha-1 over a period of almost 5 years, while maintaining the dominancy of the optimal diatom species on a seasonal basis. The dominant species varies during the year. The production of microalgae is essentially agriculture, but without the ability to control invasive species in the absence of herbicides and insecticides, pollution and production costs would be prohibitive. Among the latter topics are the discussions of whether it is better to produce lipids and then convert them to biofuels or maximize the production of diatom biomass and then convert it to biocrude products using, for example, hydrothermal processes. It is becoming increasingly evident that without massive public support, the commercial production of microalgal biofuels alone will remain elusive. While economically competitive production of biofuels from diatoms will be difficult, when priority is given to multiple high-value products, including wastewater treatment, and when biofuels are considered co-products in a systems approach to commercial production of diatoms, an economically competitive process will become more likely.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number16
Number of pages13
JournalBiotechnology for Biofuels
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 The Author(s).

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-2700-64008


  • Biofuels
  • Biomass
  • Bioproducts
  • Co-products
  • Diatoms
  • Hydrothermal liquefaction
  • Invasive species
  • Long-term growth outdoors


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