Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Algae for Your Tank?

10.01.2012
New process for producing biodiesel from microalgae oil

The available amount of fossil fuels is limited and their combustion in vehicle motors increases atmospheric CO2 levels. The generation of fuels from biomass as an alternative is on the rise. In the journal Angewandte Chemie, Johannes A. Lercher and his team at the Technische Universität München have now introduced a new catalytic process that allows the effective conversion of biopetroleum from microalgae into diesel fuels.

Plant oils from sources such as soybean and rapeseed are promising starting materials for the production of biofuels. Microalgae are an interesting alternative to these conventional oil-containing crops. Microalgae are individual cells or short chains of cells from algae freely moving through water. They occur in nearly any pool of water and can readily be cultivated. “They have a number of advantages over oil-containing agricultural products,” explains Lercher. “They grow significantly faster than land-based biomass, have a high triglyceride content, and, unlike the terrestrial cultivation of oilseed plants, their use for fuel production does not compete with food production.”

Previously known methods for refining oil from microalgae suffer from various disadvantages. The resulting fuel either has too high an oxygen content and poor flow at low temperatures, or a sulfur-containing catalyst may contaminate the product. However, other catalysts are still not efficient enough. The Munich scientists now propose a new process, for which they have developed a novel catalyst: nickel on a porous support made of zeolite HBeta. They have used this to achieve the conversion of raw, untreated algae oil under mild conditions (260 °C, 40 bar hydrogen pressure). Says Lercher: “The products are diesel-range saturated hydrocarbons that are suitable for use as high-grade fuels for vehicles.”

The oil produced by the microalgae is mainly composed of neutral lipids, such as mono-, di-, and triglycerides with unsaturated C18 fatty acids as the primary component (88 %). After an eight-hour reaction, the researchers obtain 78 % liquid alkanes with octadecane (C18) as the primary component. The main gas-phase side products are propane and methane.

Analysis of the reaction mechanism shows that this is a cascade reaction. First the double bonds of the unsaturated fatty acid chains of the triglycerides are saturated by hydrogen. Then, the now saturated fatty acids take up hydrogen and are split from their glycerin component, which reacts to form propane. In the final step, the acid groups in the fatty acids are reduced stepwise to the corresponding alkane.

About the Author
Dr. Johannes A. Lercher is Professor of Chemical Technology at the TU München, Germany, Director of the Institute for Integrated Catalysis at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and Vice President of the German Catalysis Society. His research activities are focused on oxide and molecular-sieve-based sorption and catalysis, the activation and functionalization of hydrocarbons, the deconstruction and defunctionalization of biomass, catalyst design, and the in situ characterization of catalytic processes.

Author: Johannes A. Lercher, Technische Universität München (Germany), http://www.tc2.ch.tum.de/
Title: Towards Quantitative Conversion of Microalgae Oil to Diesel-Range Alkanes with Bifunctional Catalysts

Angewandte Chemie International Edition, Permalink to the article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/anie.201106243

Johannes A. Lercher | Angewandte Chemie
Further information:
http://www.tc2.ch.tum.de/

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Antibiotics: New substances break bacterial resistance
12.11.2019 | Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg

nachricht How the Zika virus can spread
11.11.2019 | Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Magnets for the second dimension

If you've ever tried to put several really strong, small cube magnets right next to each other on a magnetic board, you'll know that you just can't do it. What happens is that the magnets always arrange themselves in a column sticking out vertically from the magnetic board. Moreover, it's almost impossible to join several rows of these magnets together to form a flat surface. That's because magnets are dipolar. Equal poles repel each other, with the north pole of one magnet always attaching itself to the south pole of another and vice versa. This explains why they form a column with all the magnets aligned the same way.

Now, scientists at ETH Zurich have managed to create magnetic building blocks in the shape of cubes that - for the first time ever - can be joined together to...

Im Focus: A new quantum data classification protocol brings us nearer to a future 'quantum internet'

The algorithm represents a first step in the automated learning of quantum information networks

Quantum-based communication and computation technologies promise unprecedented applications, such as unconditionally secure communications, ultra-precise...

Im Focus: Distorted Atoms

In two experiments performed at the free-electron laser FLASH in Hamburg a cooperation led by physicists from the Heidelberg Max Planck Institute for Nuclear physics (MPIK) demonstrated strongly-driven nonlinear interaction of ultrashort extreme-ultraviolet (XUV) laser pulses with atoms and ions. The powerful excitation of an electron pair in helium was found to compete with the ultrafast decay, which temporarily may even lead to population inversion. Resonant transitions in doubly charged neon ions were shifted in energy, and observed by XUV-XUV pump-probe transient absorption spectroscopy.

An international team led by physicists from the MPIK reports on new results for efficient two-electron excitations in helium driven by strong and ultrashort...

Im Focus: A Memory Effect at Single-Atom Level

An international research group has observed new quantum properties on an artificial giant atom and has now published its results in the high-ranking journal Nature Physics. The quantum system under investigation apparently has a memory - a new finding that could be used to build a quantum computer.

The research group, consisting of German, Swedish and Indian scientists, has investigated an artificial quantum system and found new properties.

Im Focus: Shedding new light on the charging of lithium-ion batteries

Exposing cathodes to light decreases charge time by a factor of two in lithium-ion batteries.

Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory have reported a new mechanism to speed up the charging of lithium-ion...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

High entropy alloys for hot turbines and tireless metal-forming presses

05.11.2019 | Event News

Smart lasers open up new applications and are the “tool of choice” in digitalization

30.10.2019 | Event News

International Symposium on Functional Materials for Electrolysis, Fuel Cells and Metal-Air Batteries

02.10.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

Magnets for the second dimension

12.11.2019 | Machine Engineering

New efficiency world record for organic solar modules

12.11.2019 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Non-volatile control of magnetic anisotropy through change of electric polarization

12.11.2019 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>