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Scientists produce bio-fuel from algae

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A common algae used in making fish food has been found to be a potential source for both biodiesel and jet fuel, according to a new study.

Researchers exploited chemical compounds found in commercially-grown algal species, Isochrysis, to synthesize the two different fuel products in parallel, a study published in the Energy & Fuels journal said.

“It’s novel…. It’s far from a cost-competitive product at this stage, but it’s an interesting new strategy for making renewable fuel from algae,” said the study’s lead author, Greg O’Neil of Western Washington University in the US state of the same name.

The scientists began their study by converting the algae’s fatty acids into fatty acid methyl esters (FAMEs), which are the molecules in biodiesel.

Isochrysis was also found to produce alkenones, which researchers believe hold potential as a fuel source.

“The alkenones themselves, with long chains of 37 to 39 carbons, are much too big to be used for jet fuel,” O’Neil said, explaining that after cleaving carbon-carbon double bonds into pieces with only 8 to 13 carbons, “those are small enough to use for jet fuel.”

Scientists hope that by producing two fuels, biodiesel and jet fuel, from a single alga, commercialization is possible in the future.

“It’s scientifically fascinating and really cool…. This alga has got much greater potential, but we are in the nascent stages,” said researcher, Chris Reddy of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) in the US state of Massachusetts.


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