Algal Biodiesel Paper

Algal Biodiesel Paper - Microalgal Biodiesel Current...

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Microalgal Biodiesel: Current Research, Ventures, and Developments It is absolutely apparent that the world’s dependence on fossil fuels is unsustainable. Our addiction pumps 1.3 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year while we give $820 million a day to foreign governments and corporations that give us our fix. [1] None of this is news really; we just don’t have the magic bullet solution that will allow us to kick our habit so we keep throwing away our money while our planet rides a downward spiral toward uninhabitability for all species. There is no magic bullet but there are sustainable solutions that when used synergistically, can wean us off of fossil fuels. One part of the overall solution is to use the organisms that created the oil in the first place, but in a different way: grow the organisms and extract their bottled up energy over a very short term. One of the plausible ways to do this is to use the most efficient natural energy transducers on the planet, microalgae. This method has the ability to work well with existing technologies, especially in the transport sector of energy consumption. Continued research and development is needed for this method to mature into the energy source it has potential to become. Biodiesel and Transesterification Biodiesel is the primary energy transport medium in the microalgal energy model. The process of producing biodiesel is relatively straightforward. In basic medium, oil extracted from pressing the microalgae is reacted with a relatively small quantity of alcohol. (usually methanol) The process yields glycerin and alkyl esters, or biodiesel. This reaction, called transesterification, occurs readily at
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room temperatures. The same process is used in an industrial setting in the soy based biodiesel industry. The glycerin byproduct has its own market although supply from a large scale biodiesel industry would drive glycerin prices to near zero. Glycerin is a non-toxic organic chemical which has use in personal care products, pharmaceuticals, food and beverages, tobacco, alkyd resins, and other technical applications. [2] Algacultural Approaches The seminal research for microalgal biodiesel was conducted from 1978 to 1996 by the U.S. DOE’s Aquatic Species Program. The program conducted extensive research on thousands of species of mircoalgae. The primary production method investigate was an open pond system. This method was chosen over other potentially more bioproductive methods because of cost. Even though open ponds use available sunlight less efficiently, microalgae grown using this method are capable of producing 30 times the amount of oil per unit land area in comparison with land based oil crops [3]. This factor of required land area, in combination with the facts that ponds can be but on non-fertile land makes microalgae based fuels very attractive from a land use perspective.
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This note was uploaded on 06/08/2008 for the course MAE 136 taught by Professor Mills during the Spring '08 term at UCLA.

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Algal Biodiesel Paper - Microalgal Biodiesel Current...

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