Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Tiny Milking Machines Harvest Oil From Algae

Scientists at Ames Lab and Iowa State University have invented tiny "nano-milkers" that extract the oil from algae without harming the microbes. Presumably the algae live to be milked again and again, in a process that may help reduce the cost of biofuel production from agal oil.
The so-called "nanofarming" technology uses sponge-like mesoporous nanoparticles to extract oil from the algae. The process doesn't harm the algae like other methods being developed, which helps reduce both production costs and the production cycle. Once the algal oil is extracted, a separate and proven solid catalyst from Catilin will be used to produce ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) and EN certified biodiesel.

The potential of algae for fuel is tremendous as up to 10,000 gallons of oil may be produced on a single acre of land. The DOE estimates that if algae fuel replaced all the petroleum fuel in the United States, it would require only 15,000 square miles, which is a few thousand square miles larger than Maryland. This is less than one-seventh the area devoted to corn production in the United States in 2000. _GenNews
15,000 square miles is 1 1/2 times the area of San Bernardino County in California. In other words, since algae will grow in the desert using wastewater as a growth medium, efficient use of algal biofuels could free up virtually all farmland in the US for other purposes such as growing food.

The best oil seed crops are tropical in nature, putting the US at a disadvantage. But algae is potentially better than any oilseed -- including tropical oilseeds such as Palm and Jatropha. As soon as the technologies of efficient growth, harvest, oil separation, and fuel processing of algae are "perfected" (or made just good enough), the US will be in a position to out-produce virtually any country in the world, in terms of fuels.



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