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Arizona catches up on algae to oil

The algae they found changed everything.

The DOE's target was 40 percent lipid, Sommerfeld said.

 "We met that goal and have kept finding even better algae. Now, we have organisms that will grow algae with a biomass that's 55 percent oil . . . (so) now, we have algae that can produce an abundance of oil."

Sommerfeld said that the sort of saline water algae thrives in can be found in aquifers in Arizona, New Mexico and Texas, and that "because it's brackish, or saline, we can't drink it. Now, we can use this otherwise unusable water."

Once it became clear that significant oil could be taken from algae, it became more of a mechanical problem to solve, Sommerfeld said. "We needed to create efficient places for the algae to grow - bioreactors - and from which we could extract the biomass which we would turn into oil."

The standard extraction method is to dry the algae biomass and use a solvent to chemically extract the oil. "You dissolve the oil out of the cell, heat the liquid mixture and the solvent boils off. You collect the solvent as it boils off to use again, but when it boils off, the oil is left," Sommerfeld said.

He said one reason large bioreactors are needed is because it takes a significant mass of dried algae to make a significant amount of oil. One pound of dried algae that is 50 percent lipid will yield a half-pound of oil. It would take about 16 pounds of dried biomass to make 1 gallon of oil.

more about Arizona and algae
http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/news/articles/2010/08/27/20100827arizona-biofuel-industry-research.html
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Fri August 27 2010 11:45:17 PM by Natalia Arizona and algae 1660 views
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