Biofuel produced from microalgae. (Photo: www.uncu.edu.ar)
Biofuel production with microalgae tested
Friday, August 10, 2012, 23:20 (GMT + 9)
In the province of Mendoza, a team of 12 researchers are studying and testing food and biofuel production based on unicellular algae farming.
The initiative, subsidized by the Ministry of Science, Technology and Post-Graduate Studies of the University of Cuyo (UNCU) is driven by the manager of the research project of Algae Production for Extracting Oil and Producing Biofuel, Jorge Barón.
The nuclear engineer explains that microalgae are capable of providing fuel, sugar and protein, and their cultivation has great economic yield.
Given the global context, where there is a crisis between energy production and respect for the environment, this project has great viability.
Unicellular microalgae have the ability to capture carbon dioxide for food, thus reducing greenhouse gases.
Furthermore, they do not use fertile land, making them suitable for cultivation in the desert soil of Mendoza.
However, these microalgae need good sunlight because they are photosynthetic organisms and do not consume water, since they live in the aquatic environment without absorbing it.
This research is privately funded by the company Energy Traders SA, which is added to the grants awarded by the Secretariat of Science, Technology and Post-Graduate Studies of UNCU.
Barón explains that the project is not purely scientific but it is intended to establish technically viable and economically profitable processes.
Microalgae are generated in any water body and are suitable for scientists to monitor their development and have higher oil content, among other issues.
Algae reproduce very quickly: within one to five days it doubles its population and this contributes to a daily harvest. In the same farming hectare between 100 and 200 harvests can be performed a year, the scientist states.
Moreover, microalgal biomass production favours the environment because they can act as water purification.
The team of researchers is working on the use of wastewater, which has a high organic load -- many nitrates, nitrites and phosphates --, is heavily contaminated and is difficult to use for cultivation.
By Analia Murias