Navigation Links
Pressure-cooking algae into a better biofuel
Date:4/22/2010

ANN ARBOR, Mich.---Heating and squishing microalgae in a pressure-cooker can fast-forward the crude-oil-making process from millennia to minutes.

University of Michigan professors are working to understand and improve this procedure in an effort to speed up development of affordable biofuels that could replace fossil fuels and power today's engines.

They are also examining the possibility of other new fuel sources such as E. coli bacteria that would feed on waste products from previous bio-oil batches.

"The vision is that nothing would leave the refinery except oil. Everything would get reused. That's one of the things that makes this project novel. It's an integrated process. We're combining hydrothermal, catalytic and biological approaches," said Phillip Savage, an Arthur F. Thurnau Professor in the U-M Department of Chemical Engineering and principal investigator on the $2-million National Science Foundation grant that supports this project. The grant is funded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

"This research could play a major role in the nation's transition toward energy independence and reduced carbon dioxide emissions from the energy sector," Savage said.

Microalgae are microscopic species of algae: simple, floating plants that don't have leaves, roots or stems. They break down more easily than other potential biofuel source plants because they don't have tough cell walls, Savage said.

Unlike fossil fuels, algae-based biofuels are carbon-neutral. The algae feed on carbon dioxide in the air, and this gets released when the biofuel is burned. Fossil fuel combustion puffs additional carbon into the air without ever taking any back.

The pressure-cooker method the U-M researchers are studying bucks the trend in algae-to-fuel processing. The conventional technique involves cultivating special, oily types of algae, drying the algae and then extracting its oil.

The hydrothermal process this project employs allows researchers to start with less-oily types of algae. The process also eliminates the need to dry it, overcoming two major barriers to large-scale conversion of microalgae to liquid fuels.

"We make an algae soup," Savage said. "We heat it to about 300 degrees and keep the water at high enough pressure to keep it liquid as opposed to steam. We cook it for 30 minutes to an hour and we get a crude bio-oil."

The high temperature and pressure allows the algae to react with the water and break down. Not only does the native oil get released, but proteins and carbohydrates also decompose and add to the fuel yield.

"We're trying to do what nature does when it creates oil, but we don't want to wait millions of years," Savage said. "The hard part is taking the tar that comes out of the pressure cooker and turning it into something you could put in your car, changing the properties so it can flow more easily, and doing it in a way that's affordable."

Savage and his colleagues are taking a broad and deep look at this process. They are investigating ways to use catalysts to bump up the energy density of the resulting bio-oil, thin it into a flowing material and also clean it up by reducing its sulfur and nitrogen content.

Furthermore, they're examining the process from a life-cycle perspective, seeking to recycle waste products to grow new source material for future fuel batches. This doesn't have to be algae, Savage said. It could be any "wet biomass." They are working on growing in their experiments' waste products E. coli that they could potentially use along with algae.


'/>"/>

Contact: Nicole Casal Moore
ncmoore@umich.edu
734-647-7087
University of Michigan
Source:Eurekalert  

Related biology news :

1. Bacterial food supplements for small algae
2. AgriLife scientists do groundwork for genetic mapping of algae biofuel species
3. Study shows potential for using algae to produce human therapeutic proteins
4. Stacking traits in algae is focus of grant to Iowa State University researcher
5. Fueling the future with fish tank residue: Sandia scientist discusses use of algae as a biofuel
6. New study finds link between marine algae and whale diversity over time
7. Discovery of algaes toxic hunting habits could help curb fish kills
8. UVa engineers find significant environmental impacts with algae-based biofuel
9. From toxic dust and algae to ill winds from Africa
10. Clemson researchers say algae key to mass extinctionss
11. Fill er up -- with algae
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
Related Image:
Pressure-cooking algae into a better biofuel
(Date:3/21/2016)... , March 22, 2016 ... with passcodes for superior security   ... leading provider of secure digital communications services, today announced ... technology and offer enterprise customers, particularly those in the ... recognition and voice authentication within a mobile app, alongside, ...
(Date:3/14/2016)... March 14, 2016 NXTD ) ("NXT-ID" ... commerce market, announces the airing of a new series of ... week of March 21 st .  The commercials will air ... popular Squawk on the Street show. --> NXTD ... growing mobile commerce market, announces the airing of a new ...
(Date:3/10/2016)... , March 10, 2016   Unisys Corporation ... and Border Protection (CBP) is testing its biometric identity ... San Diego to help identify certain non-U.S. citizens ... . The test, designed to help determine the efficiency and ... began in February and will run until May 2016. ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:5/27/2016)... and READING, England ... Indegene ( http://www.indegene.com ), ein führender ... für die Life-Science-Branche, Pharmaunternehmen und Gesundheitsorganisationen, und ... Anbieter von innovativen wissenschaftlichen Support-Services für den ... von IntraScience heute den Ausbau ihrer bestehenden ...
(Date:5/26/2016)... YORK , May 26, 2016 ... investors see value in this space. Today,s pre-market research on ... equities: Radius Health Inc. (NASDAQ: RDUS ), Cerus ... ARWR ), and Five Prime Therapeutics Inc. (NASDAQ: ... stock technical briefings at: http://www.activewallst.com/ ...
(Date:5/25/2016)... Bangkok, Thailand (PRWEB) , ... May 25, 2016 ... ... the participation of a Thai delegation at BIO 2016 in San Francisco. Located ... private sector will be available to answer questions and discuss the Thai biotechnology ...
(Date:5/25/2016)... ... May 25, 2016 , ... WEDI, the nation’s leading authority on the ... Charles W. Stellar has been named by the WEDI Board of Directors as WEDI’s ... an executive leader with more than 35 years of experience in healthcare, association management ...
Breaking Biology Technology: