Researchers create biodiesel from microalgae grown in wastewater

Friday, February 18, 2011

WASHINGTON - Researchers at Rochester Institute of Technology are developing biodiesel from wastewater microalgae.

Algae are cheaper and faster to grow than corn and they are much simpler organisms.

They use photosynthesis to convert sunlight into energy. They need only water-ponds or tanks to grow in-sunlight and carbon dioxide.

“Algae-as a renewable feedstock-grow a lot quicker than crops of corn or soybeans,” said Eric Lannan.

“We can start a new batch of algae about every seven days. It’s a more continuous source that could offset 50 percent of our total gas use for equipment that uses diesel.”

There is a disadvantage, though.

“The one big drawback is that biodiesel does freeze at a higher temperature,” said Jeff Lodge.

“It’s possible to blend various types of biodiesel-algae derived with soybeans or some other type-to generate a biodiesel with a more favourable pour point that flows easily.”

The team is now growing the alga strain Scenedesmus, a single-cell organism, using wastewater from the Frank E. Van Lare Wastewater Treatment Plant in Irondequoit, N.Y.

“Algae will take out all the ammonia-99 percent-88 percent of the nitrate and 99 percent of the phosphate from the wastewater - all those nutrients you worry about dumping into the receiving water. In three to five days, pathogens are gone. We’ve got data to show that the coliform counts are dramatically reduced below the level that’s allowed to go out into Lake Ontario,” said Lodge. (ANI)

Filed under: Science and Technology

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