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Heterotropic Algae Fed on Sugars from Cellulosic Biomass

December 12th, 2008 | No Comments | Posted in Algae-Cultivation, Algae-Fuel-Research

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Researchers at the Center for Renewable and Alternative Fuel Technologies at Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond, Ky., are partnering with San Diego-based General Atomics to study the potential for converting cellulosic biomass into biodiesel and ultimately jet fuel.

According to Dr. Bruce Pratt, chairman of the Department of Agriculture at EKU, researchers will look at using commercially available cellulase enzymes to convert cellulosic biomass to sugars, which will then be fed to heterotrophic algae that can convert sugars to oils without photosynthesis. “These are not the phototrophic types (of algae) that use sunlight,” Pratt said. “These are membranous-type algae and they are heterotrophic, because we need to feed them the nutrients rather than getting the nutrients from the sun. These strains of algae have very high oil content.” The oils are then extracted from the algae and converted to biodiesel.

The process is similar to how cellulosic ethanol is produced, but the end product is biodiesel. “To get ethanol, you take those sugars and ferment them to make alcohol. Our difference is taking the sugars and feeding them to algae and having the algae produce the oils.”

Source: Biodiesel Magazine

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