A cost-effective tool to select the best microalgae for biodiesel production

To reduce the dependencies on fossil fuels, scientists have been looking at various alternative energy sources. Microalgae is one such candidate showing promising characteristics to replace fossil fuels.

With the fast growth and high lipid content, and their ability to grow in environments that are unfit for agriculture, the microalgal cultures have several advantages over conventional crops used for commercial biodiesel. However, very few species have been studied so far for use as biodiesel. The standard method of determining their suitability is costly due to the need for high volume samples and specific equipment requirements.

Now researchers have developed an overall score (OS) as a bioprospecting tool to facilitate the search for potential species/strains. The tool considers the biomass and oil production process requirements, triacylglyceride content, and other biodiesel properties, as well as economic and environmental aspects when using a specific species of microalgae. The research is published in the Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy  

Schematic diagram for the process to obtain overall score for evaluating microalgal species for biodiesel production. Image: Lucas Martín

According to Lucas Martin, one of the authors of the study, their work makes it possible to analyze the microalgae using laboratory-scale data without a costly pilot-scale experiment.

Using the OS on nine species, the researchers narrowed down the number of species within the diatom for potential large-scale biodiesel production. The species with the highest OS scores are Halamphora coffeaeformisNavicula cincta, and N. gregaria

“The most surprising thing was the low score obtained by species that are widely studied for the production of biodiesel such as Chlorella vulgaris,” said Martin.

The research found many diatom species with the potential for sustainable biodiesel production and resistance to extreme environmental conditions. So far, these species have not been studied for the bioenergy prospect.

Martin added that we could apply the Overall Score (OS) methodology to any other products produced from microalgae and not just biodiesel. 

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Source: TechXplore

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