03/2013, Finished R&D Projects

Development of a new process for the extraction of oil from plankton

  • funding program: ZIM (BMWi)
  • term: 01.03.2013 – 31.05.2015
  • project partner: Weber Ultrasonics GmbH, Karlsbad-Ittersbach

Initial position:

With the Renewable Energies Directivethe bioethanol demand in Europe will increase in the coming years and is estimated to a total amount of around 15 million cubic meters for 2020. During the production process, considerable amounts of residue, which is called vinasse, are formed.

In a new approach the vinasse is used as a substrate to cultivate zoo and phytoplankton, which contains a valuable oil.


A high-quality, storable and transportable oil containing a high proportion of polyunsaturated fatty acids shall be obtained from the plankton, which is of great interest for the food and dietary supplement industry as well as the cosmetics industry. Methods and the corresponding equipment technology have to be developed in order to gently obtain and  purify oil from zooplankton. This is to maintain its original structure and fatty acid composition by limiting the oxidative processes. The individual steps harvesting, concentration, cell disruption, drying, extraction and refining of the oil are tested. The processing of plankton is new and needs to be designed.


It was possible to produce oil from plankton using a very gentle process for the sensitive oil (oxidation-sensitive due to it’s fatty acid structure).

The following process steps were investigated:
Drying zooplankton
Conditioning of zooplankton by enzymatic cell disruption
Oil by press technology
Oil by solvent extraction
efining the oil

The procedures were tested in laboratory and pilot scale and highly optimized. A method in accordance with the objective could be shown.

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