Vats of farmed microalgae. (Photo: Mdp.utn.edu.ar)
Microalgae research advances towards biodiesel production
Tuesday, March 16, 2010, 00:10 (GMT + 9)
A team of researchers at the National Technological University of Mar del Plata (UTN) is working on a research project to produce biodiesel from marine microalgae, with the aim of developing economically viable and environmentally sustainable processes.
The group already designed a low-cost production module of microalgae, from where it seeks to limit consumed energy to under 20 per cent of the energy produced.
"A fundamental factor of this project centres on the replacement of high-cost raw materials, like carbon dioxide and cultivation items, with the availing of environmental liabilities like industrial emissions and sewage mud,” the university informed.
The research work is developed in the city of Mar del Plata, with the participation of scientists and technicians with know-how in aquaculture, phycology, biotechnology, environmental engineering and processes.
The production of biodiesel from marine microalgae has very important advantages: It does not restrict human food consumption (of for example the soybean) and fresh water is not used, but rather sea water, which cools the equipment of a large factory near the location where the project is developed.
From each hectare of microalgae some 8,000 litres of oil are obtained per year, point out the experts, who rely on the collaboration of researchers of
the National Technological University of Resistance, Chaco.
During the development of the project, which began in 2008, a species of very productive microalgae with high oil content was adapted to local conditions and was cultivated in pools of up to 2000 litres during the four seasons of the year.
The researchers emphasise that they reached compatible cellular densities with its mass production and the microalgae were separated satisfactorily from the cultivation water by means of flocculation and centrifugalisation.
In addition, they extracted the total oil content and determined by means of gaseous chromatography that the oil obtained is apt for biodiesel production.
By Analia Murias