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Dinoflagellate microalgae show biofuel potential in Spanish study

April 21, 2013

Dynoflagellate microalgae with biofuel potential

Dynoflagellate microalgae with biofuel potential

Researchers at the Institute of Environmental Science and Technology (ICTA) and the Institute of Marine Sciences (ICM-CSIC), in Spain, have analyzed the potential of different species of microalgae for producing biodiesel, comparing their growth, production of biomass and the quantity of lipids per cell, with results showing that one type of marine algae that has received little attention previously – dinoflagellate microalgae – is highly suitable for cultivation with the goal of producing biodiesel.

The scientists carried out the production process in exterior cultures, in natural conditions, without artificial light or temperature control, in cultivation conditions with low energy costs and subject to seasonal fluctuations. Their detailed analysis of all costs over four years yielded promising results: their microalgae cultures are close to producing biodiesel profitably even in uncontrolled environmental conditions. “If we make simple adjustments to completely optimize the process, biodiesel obtained by cultivating these marine microalgae could be an option for energy supplies to towns near the sea,” said Sergio Rossi, an ICTA researcher at the Universitat Autónoma de Barcelona (UAB).

Among these adjustments, scientists highlight the possibility of reusing leftover organic pulp (the glycerol and protein pulp that is not converted into biodiesel) and using air pumps and more efficient cultivation materials.

Now shown to be a very promising group in comparison to others that have been studied, dinoflagellate microalgae are indigenous to the Mediterranean, so the Spanish scientists observe that they would present no environmental threat in the event of leakage.

This study was led by scientists from the UAB’s Institute of Environmental Science and Technology and involved researchers from the Department of Marine and Oceanographic Biology of the Institute of Marine Sciences of the CSIC, from the UAB spin-off Inèdit Innovació SL, in the UAB Research Park, and from the SOSTENIPRA research group, of the UAB’s Department of Chemical Engineering.

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