A team of researchers at University of Utah have developed a unique & quick technique to provide inexpensive algal biocrude in large amounts with the help of specifically developed jet mixer.
Microorganisms such as algae that thrive in water-bodies like lakes, rivers & ponds have something called lipids inside them. Lipids are fatty acid molecules that has oil which can be removed to fuel diesel engines. When the lipids are extracted, its known as biocrude. Therefore, this makes micro-algae a great type of biomass, organic component which can be used as source of sustainable fuel.
Lipids are also discovered in various single-cell organisms like yeasts used in processing of cheese. However, the issue with algae for biomass is the excess amount of energy it requires to extract the lipids or biocrude from watery plants. Using present techniques, more energy is utilized to convert algae into biocrude as compared to the energy one gets back out of it.
New Method by Chemical Engineers
Chemical engineers’ team from University of Utah have come up with a novel method of jet mixer, which removes lipids using less energy than the previous extraction technique. The novel mixer is comparatively faster, removing lipids in a matter of seconds.
Outcome of the research were released in a journal called Chemical Engineering Science X. Paper’s co-author Dr. Leonard Pease said that the important part is trying to accomplish energy parity. Although they still have to reach that stage, it is still an essential step toward achieving it. They have successfully eradicated an important development hindrance to make production of algal biofuel more effective & smarter. Their techniques puts them much closer to developing biofuels energy parity as compared to before.
Process to Convert Algae into Biocrude
Currently, to remove lipids rich in oil from algae, scientists first pull the water out from algae, which leaves either a dry powder or slurry form of biomass. This part of the process is energy consuming. The residue is later mixed with a solvent, wherein lipids are parted from the biomass. The leftover part is the biocrude, which is used to create algae-based biofuel. The fuel is combined with diesel fuel to supply to tractors, long-haul trucks, & other big diesel-powered machinery. Since it demands a lot of energy to remove water from plants at the start of the procedure, converting algae into biofuel so far has not been a practical, or economical method.