Manoj Kamalanathan, PhD

Senior Research Scientist
Phone: +1 (207) 315-2567, ext. 320
Fax: +1 (207) 315-2329

For media inquiries, please contact


Ph.D. Algal physiology and biochemistry, Monash University

M.Sc. Applied Microbiology, VIT University

B.Sc. Microbiology, Jai Hind College, Mumbai University

Research Interests

I am a biochemist and a physiologist interested in exploring the potential of algae to discover solutions to key biotechnological and environmental issues. Algae, although microscopic in size, are central to various biogeochemical processes, and are a source of several commercially important products. For the last ten years, I have specialized in exploring the industrial (biofuels and astaxanthin production), ecological (algae-bacteria interaction), and toxicological (oil spills and PFAS) aspects of algae using a creative approach of utilizing a mix of lab and field studies.

My interests include developing algal-based solutions to climate change challenges, studying microbial ecosystems by understanding how algae communicate with themselves and other microbes in aquatic ecosystems.

Algal-based solutions:

I believe that sustainable agriculture products, clean energy solutions, and carbon dioxide removal techniques could all be hidden within algal cells. However, their full potential remains untapped. Currently, only a handful of strains represent 99% of algal-based solutions. Algae come in a dazzling array of sizes, shapes, and each new strain represents a treasure trove of untapped biotechnology. Therefore, it is critical to find the right algal species and optimize their metabolism using physio-biochemical or genetic means to fit a problem’s unique needs.

Continuous hydrogen production from algae

Approximately, 100 million metric tons of hydrogen is produced annually worldwide to make nitrogen fertilizers and liquid transport fuel (i.e. convert low-grade crude oils). Of this, most comes from natural gas, and the remaining from water-splitting electrolysis. With the right approach, biohydrogen from algae can replace liquid hydrocarbons could be a cleaner alternative. Although first observed by Hans Gaffron in 1939, bio-hydrogen from algae is a relatively unexplored solution. In addition, the use of hydrogen as a fuel to generate electricity has great potential. In the last five years, my research on the biochemistry of hydrogen synthesis from algae has led me to recognize its potential, current challenges, as well as advantages and disadvantages. One of my current projects is to optimize an algal system for continuous hydrogen production. I am also working on building a cost-effective, scalable, and easy-to-use bioreactor that would be integrated with the algal system for continuous hydrogen production.

Carbon Capture

Life on our planet would be unrecognizable without photosynthetic organisms like algae. Billions of years ago, their ancestors transformed Earth by taking up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and producing enormous amounts of oxygen. This process set the stage for oxygen-dependent life to evolve. As atmospheric carbon dioxide levels rise, harness the power of algae is a clean strategy to protect our planet. Currently, I am working on collaborative projects to build algal based carbon capture systems and to develop innovative and cost-effective ways to quantify the sequestered carbon.

Algal ecosystems:

Algae make up the ocean’s topmost, and most active, biological layer and have significant interactions with our atmosphere and the sun’s energy. They also have complex relationships with many other types of microbes, including bacteria, protozoans, and other algae. These interactions are fundamental to some of the most important environmental processes that drive the health of the entire planet. They clean our atmosphere, help send carbon to the seafloor, and form the base of ocean food webs.

Currently, I am working on exploring algae-microbial interactions. My goal is to identify new pathways and mechanisms by which algae and other microbes interact, and study how they are affected by anthropogenic perturbance. I am also interested in indirect ways of interactions such as through the extracellular matrix wherein microbially released extra cellular enzymes breakdown the algal secreted nutrient rich organic matter into simple assimilable molecules. One of my goals is to is to determine the scope of extracellular enzyme activity in natural ecosystem in the context of microbial productivity.


If you are interested in any of these projects or ideas and would like work with me, please feel free to contact me.

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