AMES, Iowa Algae is widely touted as the next best source for fueling the world's energy needs. But one of the greatest challenges in creating biofuels from algae is that when you extract the oil from the algae, it kills the organisms, dramatically raising production costs. Now researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's Ames Laboratory and Iowa State University have developed groundbreaking "nanofarming" technology that safely harvests oil from the algae so the pond-based "crop" can keep on producing.
Commercialization of this new technology is at the center of a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement between the Ames Laboratory and Catilin, a nano-technology-based company that specializes in biofuel production. The agreement targets development of this novel approach to reduce the cost and energy consumption of the industrial processing of non- food source biofuel feedstock. The three-year project is being funded with $885,000 from DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, and $216,000 from Catilin and $16,000 from Iowa State University in matching funds.
The so-called "nanofarming" technology uses sponge-like mesoporous nanoparticles to extract oil from the algae. The process doesn't harm the algae like other methods being developed, which helps reduce both production costs and the production cycle. Once the algal oil is extracted, a separate and proven solid catalyst from Catilin will be used to produce ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) and EN certified biodiesel.
The potential of algae for fuel is tremendous as up to 10,000 gallons of oil
may be produced on a single acre of land. The DOE estimates that if algae
fuel replaced all the petroleum fuel in the United States, it would require only
15,000 square miles, which is a few thousand square miles larger than
Maryland. This is less than one-seventh the area devoted to corn production
|Contact: Kerry Gibson|