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Biodiesel produced from algae species. (Photo: Stockfile)

Microalgae have the potential for cost-effective biodiesel production

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Tuesday, March 26, 2013, 03:50 (GMT + 9)

A team of researchers from the Institute of Environmental Science and Technology (ICTA) of the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB) and of the Institute of Marine Sciences of the Spanish National Research Council (ICM-CSIC) analyzed the potential of different microalgae species for producing biodiesel.

The scientists compared their growth, biomass production and the amount of lipid per cell, which is essential for obtaining the fuel.

According to the research results, dinoflagellates (algae) could be used as raw material for obtaining biodiesel easily and profitably, UAB reported.

Experts developed the whole natural production process in farmed products in the open air without artificial light or controlled temperature under the same conditions as a very low energy-cost farmed product and following the seasonal changes.

After thoroughly analyzing all costs for four years, they concluded that "microalgae cultures are close to being able to produce biodiesel profitably even under uncontrolled environmental conditions," UAB stated.

"By making simple adjustments to optimize the process, biodiesel derived from these marine microalgae cultures can be an alternative for energy supply in villages near the sea," states Sergio Rossi, a researcher at ICTA University.

In order to improve the profitability of the enterprise, the researchers are evaluating the possibility of using the excess organic paste from algae (glycerol and protein paste not becoming biodiesel) and the use of more efficient air pumps and cultivation materials.

The energy generated by means of hydrocarbons extracted from marine organisms such as phytoplankton has several advantages:

  • The algae yield the same as land plants (maize, sugarcane, soybean, etc.) occupying only between 4 per cent and 7 per cent of the surface that such farmed products would occupy;
  • They do not require freshwater for maintenance, just seawater is enough, making them viable even in desert or areas having arid problems, near the shore;
  • Algae are not, a priori, food for humans, thus the ethical problem of creating monocultures intended to make fuel rather than food production is avoided.
     

By Analia Murias
[email protected]
www.fis.com


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