Bioenergy and Biofuels (2020/2021)

Course code
Name of lecturer
Roberto Bassi
Roberto Bassi
Number of ECTS credits allocated
Academic sector
Language of instruction
I semestre dal Oct 1, 2020 al Jan 29, 2021.

Lesson timetable

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Learning outcomes

The course aims to provide bases on the definition and characteristics of fuels of different origin and intended use, focusing on innovative biotechnological solutions for the production of biofuels. Among these, the bio-fuels of I, II, III and IV generation are particularly defined, including bioethanol, biogas, biodiesel and bio-hydrogen and the implications of their use for production processes and transport as well as the consequences for the environment. The course is divided between a general part that refers to bio-fuels from cultivated plants, yeasts and bacteria and a second part dedicated to unicellular algae, in which their biological characteristics and the methods for genetic and molecular biological analysis are described. Finally, examples are given for the use of these methods for the production of different types of bio-fuels and other products with high added value.


The teaching module “biofuels” supplies basis for the identification and properties of fuels from different sources. Among these biofuels are considered in detail, namely bio-ethanol, bio.diesel and bio-hydrogen and the consequence of their use for environmental, production issues and vehicle traction. For each the production processes presently in use are defined as well as the biotechnological approach to their improvement with a major reference to crops, which are in common with food-producing processes (first generation biofuels). Furthermore, alternative sources of biomass are considered, having a lower dependence on food-producing processes. Particular emphasis is dedicated to unicellular algae and the procedures for quantitative and qualitative improvement of algal biomass through classical genetics and recombinant DNA procedures towards definition of a biofuel productive process economically sound and with low environmental impact.

1) definition of biofuels, biomass of origin. Bio-gas, bio-ethanol, bio-diesel and bio-hydrogen
2) Present procedures of production and legislation
3) Energy balance of photosynthetic organisms, upper limits of productivity, factors of loss of productivity, comparison with photovoltaaics.
4) Crops as biomass for biofuels. Present state and perspectives for improvement in crops and forst organisms..
5) Unicellular algae: advantages and disadvantages with respect to crops.
6) Biodiesel from algae
7) bio-hydrogen from algae
8) Molecular genetics in unicellular algae model system and productive systems. Procedures limiting engineering of algae.
9) Growth in photobioreactors: different architectures and limits for productivity.
10) Algae as CO2 scavengers.
11) Metabolic engineering: light use efficiency.
12) lipid metabolism
13) electron transport and hydrogenases.

Reference books
Author Title Publisher Year ISBN Note
Anju Krivov Bioenergy 1st Edition (Edizione 1) 2014 9780124081208

Assessment methods and criteria

Method of examination:

The exam will be organized in two parts:

a) Written with a series of multiple choice questions followed by an open-text question in which it describes a strategy for the production of a bio-fuel defined each time.

b) Oral in which the topics covered in class are discussed. During the course, articles will be provided on which to prepare presentations by the different students. Each presentation will be assigned a score to be added to that achieved in the written exam.