Solazyme, United States

Solazyme is a U.S. company founded in 2003 to produce renewable fuel from algae. The company also produces personal care and skin products based on the properties of algae.


Solazyme technology is split between its fuel arm and its personal care product development. Under fuels, Solazyme has demonstrated the ability to produce oil from algae. The oil can be refined to produce fuels that are identical to those produced through petroleum refining.  Unlike techniques that grow algae in direct sunlight, Solazyme uses a different approach. Their algae are grown in the dark and fed sugars produced by other mass. The system allows for rapid oil production and massive scaling, but ultimately suffers from the fact that it relies on less efficient feedstock to produce some of the energy for the process. The benefit of the technology is that it can be tailored to produce different oils simply by changing the feedstock. This has allowed the company to branch into chemical production. Solazyme GMO algae are 80% oil by volume compared to wild algae, which are a maximum of 10% oil by volume.


In 2007, the company signed a development agreement with Chevron to produce algal-fuels and to pursue the commercial aspects of this business. Under this agreement, the company has created a bioreactor (fermetor) that can produce oil and can be scaled to commercial levels. In 2011, 20,000 gallons of Solazyme fuel were used to power a U.S. Navy destroyer for a 20 hour trip. The Navy has also has a contract to purchase up to 550,000 liters of biodiesel from Solazyme.

Solazyme developed a proprietary product known as alguronic acid. Alguronic acid is a mixture of polysaccharides that was accidentally discovered when it was found to clog filters in algal bioreactors. It has show benefit in anti-aging parameters and appears to inhibit the destruction of hyaluronic acid in human skin, a molecule that helps skin retain moisture and which supports tissue structure and repair.

Solazyme branched into nutrition in 2010 as part of a joint venture with Roquette Freres. The company produces a product known as Golden Chlorella that is sold at Whole Foods Markets and General Nutrition Centers. Golden Chlorella can be used as a partial replacement for oils, eggs, butter, and other products.