Bio-exploitation of solar energy (2018/2019)

Course code
Matteo Ballottari
Academic sector
Language of instruction
Teaching is organised as follows:
Activity Credits Period Academic staff Timetable
teoria 5 II semestre Matteo Ballottari

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laboratorio 1 II semestre Matteo Ballottari

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Learning outcomes

The main objective of the course is to provide students with adequate knowledge on the use of photosynthetic organisms and photosynthetic complexes for industrial application. In particular, the importance of plant organisms in the green economy will be described and how these organisms can be included in numerous production processes. In the first part of the course, in particular, the photosynthetic organisms will be described from an evolutionary point of view, from anoxigenic bacteria to higher plants. Subsequently, the physiological and metabolic characteristics of photosynthetic organisms will be described, focusing in particular on the unicellular ones, whose potentialities will be described as an alternative and complementary solution to traditional agricultural practices for the exploitation of solar energy. Therefore, the possible limitations related to the production of biomass and high value products will be identified and the main recent biotechnological solutions to overcome these limits will be mentioned. The last part of the course will then describe the methods of cultivation of single-celled photosynthetic organisms providing basic concepts on their possible use for specific applications in the agro-industrial, nutraceutical and renewable energy sectors. Finally, the recent potential applications of extra-cellular photosynthesis using nano-bio hybrid compounds will be mentioned. During the laboratory activities foreseen within the course, plant biochemistry experience will be proposed to students such as the preparation and cultivation of algae cultures in model photobioreactors and the extraction and analysis of metabolites and proteins from plant organisms.

1. knowledge of primary and secondary metabolism of plants and processes of bio-exploitation of solar energy
2. knowledge of laboratory equipment and understanding of the experimental protocols to be applied in the environmental and bioresources fields
3. theoretical knowledge useful for understanding scientific articles and advanced texts concerning the environment and the bioresources

1. Understanding of primary production processes in autotrophic organisms and management of cell cultures for the production of biomolecules and (photo)bioreactor implementation
2. ability to understand scientific articles and texts concerning biotechnological applications in the environmental-industrial field


- Introduction to the course: maximum photosynthetic efficiency and potential of photosynthetic organisms for the production of compounds of interest
- Evolution of photosynthetic organisms from photosynthetic anoxygenic bacteria to cyanobacteria
- Evolution of photosynthetic organisms: primary and secondary endosymbiosis and appearance of photosynthetic eukaryotic cells. Description of the main types of microalgae and macroalgae
- Evolution of photosynthetic organisms: colonization of the emerged lands and development of lower and higher plants
- Physiological, biochemical and metabolic characteristics of cyanobacteria
- Physiological, biochemical and metabolic characteristics of eukaryotic microalgae
- Physiological, biochemical and metabolic characteristics of macroalgae
- Overview of secondary metabolism in photosynthetic organisms for the production of compounds with high added value
- Nutritional needs of unicellular photosynthetic organisms and strategies for obtaining nutrients from the external environment
- Perception of light, photoreceptors and signal transduction
- Current limitations in biomass production through the fixation of CO2 by microalgae and cyanobacteria and possible solutions
- Use of unicellular and multicellular photosynthetic organisms for the production of biomass for food, nutraceutical and cosmetic purposes
- Use of unicellular and multicellular photosynthetic organisms for the production of renewable energy
- Use of higher plants for phytoremediation
- Use of algae and higher plants for molecular farming
- Use of photosynthetic protein complexes in an extracellular environment for the exploitation of solar energy

- Preparation of microalgae cultures and characterization of biomass productivity of different algal species
- Extraction and characterization of metabolites produced by algal cultures

DIDACTIC METHODS lectures (with slides), group discussions and lab exercitations

Reference texts:
Teaching material provided by the teacher (available on e-learning platform)

Elements of plant physiology Taiz / Zieger / Moller / Murphy

Assessment methods and criteria

The objective of the exam consists in verifying the level of achievement of the previously indicated objectives. The exam consists of a written test with some open questions and some closed questions taken from the teaching material provided. During the lessons, examples of written exams are presented. Immediately after the written test, it is possible to arrange an oral interview (optional) with the teacher.

Reference books
Activity Author Title Publisher Year ISBN Note
teoria Taiz L. Zeiger E. Elementi di Fisiologia Vegetale Piccin 2013
teoria Taiz L. e Zeiger E. Fisiologia Vegetale Piccin-Nuova Libraria   9788829921577
laboratorio Taiz L. Zeiger E. Elementi di Fisiologia Vegetale Piccin 2013