Boğaziçi University is expanding its microalgae research to space

Assistant Professor Berat Zeki Haznedaroğlu and his team at Boğaziçi University Institute of Environmental Sciences, conducted microalgae research which has been chosen to be one of the 13 projects that will be sent to space by the first Turkish astronauts. In the scope of the project, the potential utilization of five different microalgae species will be tested by the International Space Station (ISS) as life support units at crewed space missions.

As a part of Türkiye’s National Space Program, “Microalgal Support Units for Space Missions” (UzMAn) project which is led by Boğaziçi University in cooperation with TÜBİTAK Marmara Research Center (MAM) and İstanbul Medeniyet University (IMU) is chosen one of the 13 projects which will be sent to the space. In this project, the utilization area and effectiveness of microalgae in human space missions such as Moon and Mars will be tested at UUI under the supervision of the first astronomers Alper Gezeravcı and Tuva Cihangir Atasever.

“The metabolic capabilities of microalgae will be tested"

Dr. Assistant Professor Haznedaroğlu states that this project is the first of its kind all over the world and the capabilities in the no-gravity environment of microalgae that they have developed will be analyzed with their metabolic changes.

“We are conducting comprehensive studies about microalgae at Istanbul Microalgae Biotechnologies Research and Development Center (IMBIYOTAB), Boğaziçi University. We have recently implemented several pioneering projects like Integrated Biorefinery Concept for Bioeconomi-Focused Development (INDEPENDENT) with the support provided by the Ministry of Science, Industry, and Technology and the European Commission. We are quite excited about our new project which now involves our different stakeholders. Because the UzMAn project has become one of the 13 pioneering projects that will be carried into space under Türkiye’s National Space Program. On the International Space Station, by looking at their ability to absorb high levels of carbon dioxide and convert it to oxygen capabilities in a no-gravity environment, the photosynthetic performances of the microalgae species will be measured. In the last part of the experiment, the metabolic changes in microalgae that were exposed to microgravity conditions for 14 days in the UUI will be determined by using new-generation RNA sequencing techniques and the results will be compared with the control experimental group conducted in the world.”

“It is highly valuable for crewed journey to Mars”

Dr. Assistant Professor Berat Zeki Haznedaroğlu shared the information that five different microalgae species will be tested within the scope of the task, he also states that this project is the first of its kind both nationally and internationally in the world.

He also added that microalgae can be used in many critical systems such as food production, wastewater treatment, air improvement, biomining, and 3D biomaterial production in crewed space missions planned to be organized on the Moon and Mars.

“The project has a pioneering attribute for Türkiye and the world. It is crucial for us to evaluate the performance of microalgae, especially for crewed space missions, which will provide quite important data in advance for us Besides the fact that the microalgae contain high protein and are rich in vitamins and omega fatty acid in terms of nutrition are food sources for the crew, and they can be also used for the treatment of the wastewater generated in space stations and can be used as a biofertilizer for plant species and other seeds and also supports in-cab air improvement systems. These experiments in no-gravity environments on the International Space Station are quite valuable for us to determine the advantages that microalgae will provide us on predicted long-term human space journeys like Mars Also, we are proud as a team because of being selected for one of the 13 projects which is relocating to space by the first Turkish astronauts within the National Space Program.”