Researchers produce two biofuels from a single algae
January 28, 2015
A common algae commercially grown to make fish food holds promise as a source for both biodiesel and jet fuel, according to a new study published in the journal Energy & Fuels.
The researchers, led by Greg O’Neil of Western Washington University and Chris Reddy of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, exploited an unusual and untapped class of chemical compounds in the algae to synthesize two different fuel products, in parallel, a from a single algae.
“It’s novel,” says O’Neil, the study’s lead author. “It’s far from a cost-competitive product at this stage, but it’s an interesting new strategy for making renewable fuel from algae.”
Algae contain fatty acids that can be converted into fatty acid methyl esters, or FAMEs, the molecules in biodiesel. For their study, O’Neil, Reddy, and colleagues targeted a specific algal species called Isochrysis for two reasons: First, because growers have already demonstrated they can produce it in large batches to make fish food. Second, because it is among only a handful of algal species around the globe that produce fats called alkenones. These compounds are composed of long chains with 37 to 39 carbon atoms, which the researchers believed held potential as a fuel source….