WFU Biofuels

Wake Forest students, faculty, staff and associates making and testing vegetable-oil based fuels.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Easing into microalgae oil production.

I've been looking at some of the published articles on production of oil for biodiesel from microalgaes, and it seems that there is a LOT of work being done on this.
The National Renewable Energy Labs used to be working on this, but their program lost funding in 1998. However, in the ramp-up of their research, they managed to establish a collection of the most promising oil-producing algae at the University of Hawaii. (Sounds like an excuse for a field trip to me...)

Although the papers I've read don't read easily into a recipe for following their work (at least not for a lay person like myself), but I was able to find one species mentioned in the following paper:
NREL study cites that the open-pond model for growing algae is probably the most effective, due to its low-cost. While the NREL study is a little dated now perhaps, they did some great groundwork into this, refining a list of over 3000 algals species to come up with about 300 species that are promising.

We'll get our algae farm going before you know it!

More findings to come...


At 4:51 PM, Blogger Sam Kale said...

I would like to hear more the algae to biofuel process. I am doing an independent study on growing algae with hopes of biofuel production. I am at the Carteret Community College / Aquaculture Department. We grow algae for fish and shellfish. I started w/ Nannochoropsis and Isochrysis (65ml each) for a couple of weeks. I now have a 1.5 weeks with 2 each 550ml samples. Shortly, I will be going to 3 to 4 gallons and then to 50+ gallons plastics bags and using wire like a large tomatoe cage for support. Besides from finding an economical way to extract algae from water and then oil from algae, getting a good density of algae need to be over come. Any information in this area would be greatly appreciately.

Sam Kale

At 9:36 AM, Blogger oilySOB said...

Hi Sam,

We have not actually started growing algae for oil production here yet. (We're significantly behind your progress in that respect.) However, we do have a successful biodiesel reactor, and have had several good runs from it.

You said that one of the central problems you're having is getting dense algae growth; are you using some sort of C02 injection? In the literature I've seen, this was a central part of getting rapid, dense growth.

As for extracting the oil, I think even simple pressing will yield a decent amount, though there are other methods which will yield larger results. So far, I'm just relying on the previous studies; I have not grown any algae at all yet.


At 9:11 PM, Blogger Sam said...

OK, I'm hoping to have 50 gallons of Nannochoropsis and Isochrysis by end of March. I will be looking for more ideas on increasing density, separation of algae and separation of oil. Hoping your team will have some ideas.

At 9:20 PM, Blogger Sam said...

Not using any CO2 injections. I will be using typical fish tank aerator. I do not have a source for CO2. Any suggestions? This is currently an indoor setup until Spring.

At 10:07 AM, Blogger oilySOB said...

One idea being bounced around is a biological or chemical reaction that will produce C02, like fermentation or biological consumption of glycerine ;) ...
We haven't come up with anything solid yet, though. We're really just scratching the surface with algae.

Have you extracted oil from any of your algae yet? How are you currently getting the oil out?

At 9:55 AM, Blogger Tony F. said...

I am Tony Fagerberg from University of Lund, Sweden. I am working as a postgrad on marine microalgae.

Sam, I am curious about those big plastic bags that you are using. Where do you get them from? Whay type of nutrients/metals/vitamins do you use in those big bags?

At 9:36 PM, Blogger Rodolfo Letona said...

Hello Sam, My name is Rodolfo Letona and I am currently at the Galileo University, in Guatemala City C. A., at the new R&D section.And we are kindly asking You if You can help Us or someone else, to find a supplier where can We buy a minireactor for extracting the oil from the microalgae and also where can we get the ideal seed for production of oil. Thank You kindly. Rodolfo Letona

At 5:41 PM, Blogger Vladimir Plata said...

Hello Sam. My name is Vladimir Plata and I am a research of Center for Sustainable Development in Industry and Energy of the Industrial University of Santander, in Bucaramanga, Colombia. I am working right now in a project about production of biodiesel from microalgae oil and I am kindly asking you if you can help me or someone else, to find a supplier where I can buy samples of microalgae oil for my experiments. Thank you kindly. Vladimir Plata.


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