Researchers had a breakthrough when they found a way to synthesize biodiesel and jet fuel from commercially grown algae. This is an essential step towards the generation of renewable fuel when the world is about to face fuel crisis in coming years.
By exploiting the algae commercially grown as a food fish, researchers from Western Washington University and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution were able to synthesize two different renewable fuel products simultaneously. Lead researcher, Greg O’Neil said that the process is not that affordable now, however, with few more experiments soon they might get a much cheaper alternative. “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 O’Neil.
For the discovery, researchers took a particular algae species called Isochrysis that produces fat called alkenones and converted its fat into fatty acid methyl esters (FAMEs), a molecule found in biodiesel. FAMEs are composed of long carbon chains ( 37 to 39 carbon atoms) which study authors believed has potential to be used as a fuel alternative. However, compounds with such a long carbon chains can’t be used for jet fuel, so scientists used a chemical reaction called Olefin metathesis to cut short the carbon chain with only 8 to 13 carbon atoms. Thus, researchers successfully synthesized two renewable fuels from a single algae species.
Though the fuel has a high amount of purity but it looks dark and is sludgy solid at room temperature, different from the pure oil. Scientists believe that the discovery could revolutionalise the production of algae. “This algae has got much greater potential, but we are in the nascent stages,” said Reddy, WHOI’s marine chemist.
According to a study, all the petrol available on the earth will get extinct in coming 40 years. Today one can’t imagine a world without fuel specially, gasoline and diesel. If scientists get success in making the process of fuel generation from algae cheaper, then this could be an alternative to non-renewable fuels.