Scientists at the University of Utah have found a new way to turn algae into bio-crude oil to power ships, vehicles and jets. This study was published in the journal Chemical Engineering Science X.
Microalgae are microorganisms which are present in the ponds, rivers, and lakes. Inside these microorganisms are lipids. Lipids are fatty acid molecules which contain oil that can be extracted to power diesel engines. When these lipids are extracted, they are called bio-crude.
The main issue with using algae for biomass is the amount of energy it requires to extract lipids from the water plants. Using current methods, the outcome turns out to be way less than the actual energy consumed during the process.
In the present method, the algae are pulled out from the water which leaves the biomass at a dry powder state. This part of the process uses a large amount of energy. The next step is to mix the deposits with a solvent where the lipids are separated from the biomass.
At the end of this process, bio-crude is produced which is used for algae-based biofuel. This fuel is mixed with diesel fuel to power large diesel-powered machinery.
Turning algae into biofuel is not considered a practical process as it is not an efficient or economical process.
The present study involves the use of algae to make bio-crude oil. Bio crude oil is also known as pyrolysis oil. It is a fuel which is a substitute for petroleum.
To overcome the challenge being faced by the present method, scientists developed a new kind of jet mixer which can extract lipids and at the same time not consume much energy.
During this study, the chemical engineers developed a new mixing extractor which shoots jets of the solvent at jets of algae. This results in a disturbance which makes the lipids “jump” into the solvent. This solvent is then taken out and can be reused again in the process.
Dr. Leonard Pease, one of the co-authors of the paper said, “We have removed a significant development barrier to make algal biofuel production more efficient and smarter. Our method puts us much closer to creating biofuels energy parity than we were before.”
Swomitra Mohanty, one of the co-authors of the paper said, “Our designs ensure you don’t have to expend all that energy in drying the algae and are much more rapid than competing technologies.”
This new method is said to be viable and cost-effective. The new jet mixer is faster and can extract lipids in seconds. The scientists believe that this technology can also be used for other microorganisms like fungi, or bacteria.
The scientists also say that this new development can be a game-changing breakthrough and can create a revolution in algae and other cell-derived biofuels development.