Microalgae could be new biodiesel

Microalgae could be new biodiesel Staff Reporter / 16 May 2013 Microalgae for biodiesel could be a future energy source, thanks to its environment-friendly attributes. Biodiesel has similar properties to petroleum diesel and promises to be a better alternative. It is sustainable, biodegradable, non-toxic and can be directly used in diesel engines producing lower harmful emissions, without the need for engine modification. Researchers at the UAE University, who have been carrying out research into alternative energy sources since 2010, say microalgae has proven to be the best source of oil production, due to its high production rate per unit area.The microalgae oil production is ten times higher than the best crops, and its composition is similar to that of vegetable oils. In addition, microalgae can utilise CO2 as the sole carbon source, which has the concurrent advantages of reducing harmful emissions and the dependency on food substrates, such as glucose. Furthermore, microalgae are capable of growing in saline water, which reduce freshwater loading. “The project started with cultivating different species of microalgae to select a suitable strain for biodiesel production. Various parametres were evaluated including oil productivity, CO2 fixation rates and adaptability to harsh conditions, such as high temperature and salinity. In addition, enhancing oil contents of natural microalgae strains was achieved by controlling the growth media. For some strains, the lipid content was increased from just nine per cent to 21 per cent,” explained associate professor at the Chemical Engineering Department at UAEU Dr Sulaiman Al Zuhair, who also supervised the project. “The possibility of using sewage wastewater for microalgae cultivation, to reduce the high freshwater load and to treat the wastewater at the same time, has also been tested. The research also looks at developing a process to extract oil from microalgae and simultaneously produce biodiesel. This could have a profound impact on future energy needs and the environment.” The UAEU team of researchers from the Chemical Engineering Department have been collaborating with the Chemical and Materials Engineering Department at the University of Auckland, New Zealand for the project. olivia@khaleejtimes.com Taylor Scott International

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