• Carbon dioxide delivered to microalgae can be harvested to make renewable fuels. Photo credit: The University of MelbourneCarbon dioxide delivered to microalgae can be harvested to make renewable fuels. Photo credit: The University of Melbourne

University of Melbourne researchers discover new method for making biofuels

Chemical and Biomolecular Engineers from the School of Engineering at the University of Melbourne have discovered a way to produce biofuels in a cheaper and more environmentally friendly way than existing methods.

The research team discovered a new way of delivering carbon dioxide to microalgae. The microalgae can then be harvested for biofuel.  It is well known that carbon dioxide can speed up the growth of the microalgae, but the carbon dioxide must be free of contamination otherwise the algae will die.

The new method purifies the carbon dioxide that is in power station flue gases by absorbing it into a liquid.  It is then pumped through hollow fibre membranes, which can be immersed into the microalgae beds.

Professor Sandra Kentish, Head of the Chemical Engineering Department at the University of Melbourne and leader of the research team explained: "In this work, we have found a way to purify the carbon dioxide and to supply it to the microalgae for a much more moderate cost and using a lot less energy."

Another team member, Dr Greg Martin adds: "Aside from being a cheaper approach, our research has shown that the microalgae grow faster than in other work done to date."

The experiments were conducted by PhD student, Qi Zheng, who is now undertaking further experiments to find the optimum liquid composition to deliver to the microalgae to produce the biofuel.

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