New method at the University of Bath converts discarded seaweed into biofuels and other products

According tomedia New Atlas, the growth of horsetail algal algae has lost control in many areas due to factors such as agricultural fertilizer runoff—- and a large amount of seaweed washed up on the beach. Using a new technology, these decaying organisms can quickly be converted into biofuels and other products. Typically, algae are processed by filtering it out of the brine, flushing it in fresh water, and then drying it. According to Professor Mike Allen of the University of Exeter, “the costs of these processes can be prohibitive.” Together with colleagues at the University of Bath, he has developed a cheaper and more commercial alternative.

New method at the University of Bath converts discarded seaweed into biofuels and other products

The resulting process does not require the removal of discarded seaweed from the brine. Instead, it first adds two types of catalysts to large barrels of seaweed. These chemicals release sugar from seaweed and can be used to feed a special type of yeast, which in turn produces a substitute for palm oil.

In addition, these catalysts can prepare for the next stage of the process, water hydrothermal liquefaction. In short, this involves placing the material at high temperatures and pressures. The final product is a bio-oil that can be further processed into fuel, as well as a fertilizer known as high-quality, low-cost fertilizer. In addition, as an added bonus, if any plastic waste is present in the washed-out seaweed, it can also be converted into bio-oil – so there is no need to remove it before processing.

New method at the University of Bath converts discarded seaweed into biofuels and other products

“This study is the first to show that the presence of salt water is not an obstacle, but can help,” said lead scientist Professor Christopher Chuck of the University of Bath. “The oil industry has created a variety of products, including liquid fuels, plastics and fertilizers — and we can benefit from similar flexibility. We can simply change the process conditions to produce more or less specific by-products, enabling us to be able to meet variable needs. “

The study was described in a recent paper published in the Journal of Chemical Technology and Biotechnology.

This is not the only potential use of horsetail algae. Earlier, scientists from the University of Alicante in Spain announced a way to use it as a biomass source for power plants. In addition, a team from the Fraunhofer Institute of Chemical Technology in Germany converted a different type of seaweed waste into high-quality building insulation.