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Technologies for CO2 absorption and fixation making full use of the photosynthesis functions of microscopic algae by control of the aquatic environment Development of new technologies also yields successful, highly efficient mass cultivation of Chaetoce

February 06, 2002

In order to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) as a measure to cope with environmental issues such as global warming, Yamaha Motor has aggressively promoted engineering research activities concerning the main body of engines, fuel efficiency and related items. The company also has been engaged in bio-engineering R&D designed to attain effective utilization of CO2 as a resource through the application of microscopic algae. This research has focused on technologies involving CO2 absorption and fixation (i.e. photosynthesis functions), where organic material is prepared naturally by circulation of CO2, in a method free of environmental impact.

In respect to the key CO2 absorption technology, the company has been conducting research and development toward enabling a superior CO2 fixation rate, 20 times higher than that of a temperate climate forest (where the fixation rate is 5g-CO2/m2/day). This target has now been achieved, with outstanding results in the areas of: (1) Discovering and breeding high-performance microscopic algae species; (2) Technology for controlling an aquatic environment in which the composition of a culture medium is provided as its optimum condition; and (3) Development and control technologies for a photosynthesis system that allows highly efficient and highly concentrated mass culture production. All of these achievements result from research and development of the company’s various technologies.

In addition, in the breeding of high-performance microscopic algae species, the company is currently developing hardware systems (such as the provisionally named Yamaha Bio Reactor) and control software applications which enable efficient growth of algae in cultures and practical applications for the organisms.

In the process of the research on CO2 absorption and fixation technologies, the company has also succeeded in developing an effective mass culture of a diatom - Chaetoceros calcitrans - at a concentration up to about six times (6.0x107 cells/ml) higher than that of the conventional culture technology. Chaetoceros calcitrans is known an aqua-culture supplement - a rare bait essential for the larval stage of shellfish or crustacea in aquaculture - but it has been considered difficult to grow in concentrated mass cultures.
The company, along with the Nisshin Oil Mills Ltd., is jointly developing the mass cultivation of Chaetoceros. Its future utilization and commercialization will also be implemented by an alliance between the two companies.

Yamaha Motor has pursued the research by focusing on the characteristic features of photosynthesis in nature - which causes no environmental impact - and on the highly efficient photosynthesis function of microscopic algae. In the research, Yamaha Motor has made full use of its aquatic environment-control technologies and research facilities that have been utilized to develop water purifiers.
The company’s emphasis on photosynthesis and the microscopic algae arises from conclusions of its studies based on eco-conscious operations, and is characterized by these facts: (1) Living things in nature use sunlight as an energy source to synthesize organic materials from CO2 and water for preserving their lives and species; (2) CO2 is an organic material for photosynthesis in plants, algae, and microorganisms, and circulates through the natural environment without any negative impact; and (3) Photosynthesis of microscopic algae is highly efficient; thus, it can play a vital role in future commercialization in the engineering industry.

Five years have passed since Yamaha Motor launched these biotechnological research activities, and the company is now poised at the starting line in the race for practical utilization and commercialization of the developed technology.
Although there are many issues in the field remaining to be addressed, Yamaha Motor will focus on development of technologies and equipment for the reduction and recycling of CO2 in the environment. These include the aquatic environment-control technology for increasing the biological activity of microscopic algae, as well as a reactor that enables an excellent growth rate for algae in cultures. Through these projects, the company aims to further expand its eco-conscious operations.

Comment by Ryuichi Yamashita, Executive Vice President and Representative Director of Yamaha Motor Co., Ltd.

In meeting the challenges presented by our launch into the field of biotechnology, we have made full use of our expertise gained from mechanical engineering to develop the Yamaha Bio Reactor. The reactor can be compared to an engine in terms of its potential for creating energies and products in our core business. We will continue to pursue the possibilities that lie ahead in this new field of biotechnology.

Reference Information:


A unicellular floating algae organism/phytoplankton, a rectangular diatom with four long acantha (sharp spiny parts) on its corners. Generally, cell growth and reproduction is accomplished by dividing into two cells. The size of the cell is about 6 micro meter (0.006 mm) in length and about 4 to 10 micro meter (0.004 to 0.01 mm) in width. The chaetoceros is comprised of highly-unsaturated fatty acids with a good balance of vitamins. The chaetoceros is also excellent in terms of its predatory qualities, and is therefore utilized as optimal bait for shellfish (such as asari clams, clams, and oyster) in their larval form, echinoderms (such as sea cucumbers and sea urchins), and crustaceans (such as shrimps and crabs).


A larva is any newly hatched living body of a variety of organisms including shellfish and fish, and varies in size depending on the species involved. For example, a bivalve may be about 90 to 400 micro meter in body length (shell length) depending on the species and the number of days lapsed after being hatched. The larva stage is the period up to the time the larva differentiates into a young shellfish or a young fish.

Microscopic algae

It is believe that the progenitors of microscopic algae may have originated from blue-green algae born about 3,600 million years ago, and may be divided into about 20,000 to 30,000 different species. The size of most microscopic algae ranges from about 3 to 100 micro meter . Some can live for about two to three months in a dry, dark place. Generally, microscopic algae can be found in water (including as saltwater, estuarine water, and fresh water), soil, and air.


The process in green plants by which carbon dioxide (CO2) is fixed using light as an energy source is known as photosynthesis. In other words, photosynthesis is a reaction for converting CO2 in the air. In the process, carbohydrates (Cn(H2O)m) and oxygen (O2) are synthesized from carbon dioxide (CO2) and water (H2O). The existence of almost all living things - plants, animals, and bacteria - on earth depends on photosynthesis.


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