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Algal Biofuels at U of M

October 5, 2018


With $2 million from the U.S. Department of Energy, University of Michigan researchers aim to make the long-touted promise of algae as a biofuel source for diesel engines into a reality.

Their goal: create biofuels that work with existing diesel engines and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 60 percent, compared with normal diesel fuels. To do that, they will work with colleagues at Penn State University on a three-year project to perform an end-to-end evaluation of how best to grow algae, transform it into a diesel fuel and maximize its performance during the combustion process.

“This is one of the first teams in the world to go all the way from designing sustainable biofuel feedstocks in outdoor ponds, to refining fuel so that it runs a diesel engine in a cleaner, more environmentally friendly way,” said Bradley Cardinale, a biology professor and director of U-M’s Cooperative Institute for Great Lakes Research who is involved in the project.

U-M’s work will include determining combinations that lead to optimal performance in areas such as fuel yield and stability.

“Our overall objective is to demonstrate co-optimization of a fuel blendstock with greater than 60 percent greenhouse gas reduction,” said Andre Boehman, professor of mechanical engineering and director of the Walter E. Lay Automotive Laboratory at the University of Michigan. “At the same time, we want to improve engine thermal efficiency beyond the baseline diesel engine.”

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