Super magnetic nanoparticles to harvest and turn microalgae into biodiesel

[Taiwan] National Taiwan University (NTU) research team, led by a chemistry professor Wu Chia-wen, synthesized a magnetic nanoparticle for harvesting microalgae, extracting algae oil and converting the oil’s fatty acids into a methyl ester, which is used in biodiesel.

NTU chemistry professor Wu Chia-wen
NTU chemistry professor Wu Chia-wen

The team used iron oxide and silicon dioxide to form nanoparticles, which, when applied to algae solution, magnetically attract algae and convert their fat into biodiesel with an alkaline-based catalyst, Wu said.

Traditional algae-harvesting methods require large amounts of energy to break down cell walls, but the team’s nanoparticles effectively convert algae oil to biodiesel with a maximum yield of 97.1 percent of the oil’s fatty acid methyl esters, compared with existing methods, which yield less than 60 percent, Wu said.

Algae settled down upon activation of magnetic nanoparticles.
Algae settled down within a minute upon activation of magnetic nanoparticles.

Microalgae contain the highest fat content among biomaterials commonly used to produce biofuel, so microalgae has replaced corn and barley as a favored source for the industry.

Referring to the past few years’ food safety and tainted oil scandals, NTU president Yang Pan-chyr (楊泮池) said that nanoparticles can also turn waste cooking oil into biodiesel.

The two innovations were the results of the NTU’s cooperation with Japan’s National Institute for Materials Science, a long-term project in the fields of energy, biomedicine, photonics and nanotechnology, Yang said.


View original article at: NTU researchers develop smart glass, nanoparticle

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