Microalgae could be a profitable source of biodiesel

Mar 21, 2013

Researchers at the UAB's Institute of Environmental Science and Technology (ICTA-UAB) and the Institute of Marine Sciences (ICM-CSIC), have analysed the potential of different species of microalgae for producing biodiesel, comparing their growth, production of biomass and the quantity of lipids per cell (essential for obtaining fuel).

Their study shows that one type of that has received little attention till now - dinoflagellate microalgae - is highly suitable for cultivation with the aim of producing biodiesel.

The scientists carried out the whole production process in exterior cultures, in natural conditions, without artificial light or temperature control, in cultivation conditions with low energy costs and subject to seasonal fluctuations. Detailed analysis of all costs over 4 years gives promising results: microalgae cultures are close to producing biodiesel profitably even in uncontrolled environmental conditions.

"If we make simple adjustments to completely optimise the process, biodiesel obtained by cultivating these marine microalgae could be an option for to towns near the sea", points out Sergio Rossi, an ICTA researcher at the UAB.

Among these adjustments, scientists highlight the possibility of reusing leftover organic pulp (the glycerol and protein pulp that is not converted into biodiesel) and using air pumps and more efficient cultivation materials.

Though similar studies have been done on other alga species, dinoflagellate microalgae have shown themselves to be a very promising group that stands out from the rest. Moreover, these microalgae are autochthonous to the Mediterranean, so they would present no in the event of leakage.

Third-generation biodiesel

First-generation biodiesel and (obtained from monoculture of , sugar cane, maize, etc.) have presented problems that make them less attractive. The crops cover large areas of land and need huge amounts of fresh water, and their use implies diverting food products to the energy market.

The possibility of creating energy from hydrocarbons extracted from organisms like marine phytoplankton, the so-called third-generation biodiesel, has several advantages. Firstly, algae offer the same production levels while taking up only between 4 and 7 per cent of the area occupied by crops on land, thanks to their high concentration of energy per cell. Secondly, they do not need fresh water, as sea water is sufficient, which makes them viable even in deserts or arid areas near the coast. Finally, marine algae are not, a priori, sources of food for human consumption, which avoids the ethical problem of monoculture to provide fuel rather than food.

Explore further: Researchers develop the first mobile charging system for electric vehicles

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Algae biodiesel production has to be three times cheaper

Oct 01, 2010

The cost of producing biodiesel from algae is now three and a half times more than producing it from oil, and twice as much as producing fuel from rapeseed. Investments in biotechnology would however make it feasible for ...

Algae biofuels: the wave of the future

Apr 03, 2012

Researchers at Virginia Bioinformatics Institute at Virginia Tech have assembled the draft genome of a marine algae sequence to aid scientists across the US in a project that aims to discover the best algae species for producing ...

Recommended for you

Obama launches measures to support solar energy in US

14 hours ago

The White House Thursday announced a series of measures aimed at increasing solar energy production in the United States, particularly by encouraging the installation of solar panels in public spaces.

Tailored approach key to cookstove uptake

14 hours ago

Worldwide, programs aiming to give safe, efficient cooking stoves to people in developing countries haven't had complete success—and local research has looked into why.

Wireless power transfer achieved at five-meter distance

14 hours ago

The way electronic devices receive their power has changed tremendously over the past few decades, from wired to non-wired. Users today enjoy all kinds of wireless electronic gadgets including cell phones, ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

ForFreeMinds
3.4 / 5 (5) Mar 21, 2013
This was a good effort. "microalgae cultures are close to producing biodiesel profitably" They need to make it profitable (without government subsidies, and taxed at the same rate as petroleum) first. And we've no idea how "close" they are since the article provided no estimated cost of the product.

More news stories

Hackathon team's GoogolPlex gives Siri extra powers

(Phys.org) —Four freshmen at the University of Pennsylvania have taken Apple's personal assistant Siri to behave as a graduate-level executive assistant which, when asked, is capable of adjusting the temperature ...

Better thermal-imaging lens from waste sulfur

Sulfur left over from refining fossil fuels can be transformed into cheap, lightweight, plastic lenses for infrared devices, including night-vision goggles, a University of Arizona-led international team ...

Chronic inflammation linked to 'high-grade' prostate cancer

Men who show signs of chronic inflammation in non-cancerous prostate tissue may have nearly twice the risk of actually having prostate cancer than those with no inflammation, according to results of a new study led by researchers ...