Front Bioeng Biotechnol. 2022 May 12;10:879476. doi: 10.3389/fbioe.2022.879476. eCollection 2022.
The search for biodegradable plastics has become the focus in combating the global plastic pollution crisis. Polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs) are renewable substitutes to petroleum-based plastics with the ability to completely mineralize in soil, compost, and marine environments. The preferred choice of PHA synthesis is from bacteria or archaea. However, microbial production of PHAs faces a major drawback due to high production costs attributed to the high price of organic substrates as compared to synthetic plastics. As such, microalgal biomass presents a low-cost solution as feedstock for PHA synthesis. Photoautotrophic microalgae are ubiquitous in our ecosystem and thrive from utilizing easily accessible light, carbon dioxide and inorganic nutrients. Biomass production from microalgae offers advantages that include high yields, effective carbon dioxide capture, efficient treatment of effluents and the usage of infertile land. Nevertheless, the success of large-scale PHA synthesis using microalgal biomass faces constraints that encompass the entire flow of the microalgal biomass production, i.e., from molecular aspects of the microalgae to cultivation conditions to harvesting and drying microalgal biomass along with the conversion of the biomass into PHA. This review discusses approaches such as optimization of growth conditions, improvement of the microalgal biomass manufacturing technologies as well as the genetic engineering of both microalgae and PHA-producing bacteria with the purpose of refining PHA production from microalgal biomass.