Biofuels

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Photosynthetic organisms, including plants, algae, and some photosynthetic bacteria, efficiently utilize the energy from the sun to convert water and CO2 from the air into biomass. It emphasized the use of photosynthetic organisms from aquatic environments, especially species that grow in environments unsuitable for crop production. Early in the project, macro algae, microalgae, and emergent were investigated for their ability to make lipids (as a feedstock for liquid fuel or chemical production) or carbohydrates (for fermentation into ethanol or anaerobic digestion for methane production). Macro algae (seaweeds) are fast-growing marine or freshwater plants that can reach considerable size; for example, the giant brown kelp can grow a meter in 1 day and as long as 60m. Emergent are plants such as cattails or rushes that grow partially submerged in bogs or marshes. Macro algae and emergent were found to produce small amounts of lipid, which function mainly as structural components of the cell membranes, and produce carbohydrate for use as their primary energy storage compound. In contrast, many microalgae, (microscopic, photosynthetic organisms that live in saline or freshwater environments), produce lipids as the primary storage molecule. By the early 1980s, the decision was made to focus research efforts on the use of micro algal lipids for the production of fuels and other energy products. The studies on the growth and chemical composition of macro algae and emergent will be discussed in this project. Microalgae, like higher plants, produce storage lipids in the form of triacylglycerol (TAGs). Although TAGs could be used to produce wide variety of chemicals, so also the production of fatty acid methyl esters (FAMEs), which can be used as a substitute for Fossil-derived diesel fuel. This fuel, known as biodiesel, can be synthesized from TAGs via a simple Transesterification reaction in the presence of acid or base and methanol. Biodiesel can be used in...
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