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Biofuel from Algae: Reactive Extraction


One of the most significant bottlenecks in the production of biodiesel from algae is the drying prior to reaction. This can require more energy than is given out when the biofuel is combusted, so not only is it a significant problem for the economics of the process, but also for one of its main raisons d’etre, the reduction of atmospheric carbon dioxide (as the energy is almost certainly largely from fossil fuels). Almost all of the water has to be removed before reaction to biodiesel, as water causes a side-reaction producing soap, reducing yield and rendering downstream purification of the biodiesel phase e.g. by water-washing difficult.


Reactive extraction is a process in which extraction of the oil from the algal biomass and the reaction of that oil to biodiesel are combined into one step, by contacting the biomass directly with methanol and catalyst.  Previous studies here at Newcastle on various oilseeds have demonstrated that the process is much more water-tolerant than the conventional biodiesel reaction. The aim of this project is to investigate the feasibility of using reactive extraction to convert wet algal biomass by this method.


Due to previous and ongoing work in this area all facilities are in place to extend this technique to algae.


For more details, please contact Prof Adam Harvey or Dr Jon Lee.




 Last modified: 04-Aug-2017