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Researchers Finding Ways for the Cost-effective Production of Algal Biofuels

April 23rd, 2011 | No Comments | Posted in Algae-Fuel-Research

“Don’t think algae as a mere pond scum” say the researchers at the University of Arizona, as algae are going to be the major fuel source in the near future. They are trying to reduce the cost of algal biofuel production by studying the ways of optimizing the production of fuels from algae.  They are analyzing the ways by which environmental factors could be used to control the algal growth rate while maximizing the lipid production in a cost-effective manner. They find algae cultivation in wastewater as one of the ways by which production cost could be reduced. The nitrates and phosphates in the wastewater could serve as fertilizers for the algae which eliminate the need for the supply of otherwise costly fertilizers.

Their goal is to learn enough about the chemical structure of the oils to be able to process them into biodiesel with the same facilities currently used to process petroleum. Eventually algae oil could be blended with petroleum oil to make biodiesel.

To maximize oil production algae could be deprived of a nutritional source. The idea is to make them photosynthesize more instead of replicating.

For the mass production of algae they use an outdoor facility at Tuscon, Arizona. Joel Cuello, a researcher at UA designed Accordion Photobioreactor which could control the algal growth conditions on a large scale. Cuello’s team is also experimenting hydrogen production by Chlamydomonas reinhardtii. They are researching the ways by which more hydrogen could be produced by means of sulfur deprivation.

They have come up with a way to make algae switch between photosynthesis and hydrogen production. They are able to grow algae using laser as a light source, which could be set at specific wavelengths to control photosynthesis. Their research is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Alliance for Advanced Biofuels and Bio-Products and by local and national companies.

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