Researchers at Iowa State University and DOE’s Ames National Laboratory, in partnership with biofuel specialist Catilin, Inc have developed a new technology that uses tiny nanoparticles to absorb free fatty acids from living microalgae.
To make more sustainable and cost-competitive biofuels, researchers coax out the oil on a molecular level and mix it with a non-toxic biofuel catalyst to produce biofuel and enable the algae to keep growing. Called the T300, the catalyst is recyclable and would replace the conventional biofuel catalyst sodium methylate, a salt that kills human nerve cells. According to Catilin, T300 could shave up to 19 cents per gallon off the cost of conventional biodiesel production.
As a byproduct, biofuel production yields huge quantities of glycerin and according to Catilin the glycerin byproduct of T300 is a high quality technical grade, that could potentially add enormous value to algae biofuel production.
In the meantime, much crude glycerin is incinerated as waste, though some high grade glycerin is used in soaps, cosmetics and much more other products. But it could change thanks to the researchers that are developing new ways to recycle glycerin including non-toxic antifreeze, methanol, ethanol, cattle feed and hydrogen gas.