In theory, algae could represent the new frontier of biofuels. The new technique was developed by the University of Sheffield and aims to produce biofuels starting from vegetable substances;
the biofuels are considered an important alternative to fossil fuels but the production costs and the difficulties encountered by the experts are huge, today algae could represent the ideal solution for an efficient production of biofuels.
A team led by Will Zimmerman, a professor in the department of chemical and biological engineering, solved the problems by developing an effective and low-cost methodology to produce biofuels starting from algae. The algae grow on the seabed, very deep, the strategy of Professor Will Zimmerman foresees the use of micro bubbles that float from the seabed to the surface, bringing to the surface the substances obtained from the algae, so as to facilitate their collection and save the world from energy crisis.
“We thought we had already solved the big obstacle that prevented companies from transforming synthetic products of algae into biofuels, we thought we did it when we used micro bubbles to make algae grow more densely and thus facilitate their cultivation. - Professor Zimmerman explains in an interview with the famous scientific journal Biotechnology and Bioengineering-, however, it was discovered that biofuels still could not be produced from algae due to the lack of an economic production system. There were difficulties in collecting and draining the algae. Once again we had to find a solution and once again the micro bubbles came to our aid”
The model of micro bubbles has already been exploited in the past but with different purposes: micro bubbles have been used by water purification companies to bring impurities to the surface using the buoyancy process offered by the micro bubbles themselves. The system developed by Professor Zimmerman's team is similar but uses up to 1000 times less energy for the production of micro bubbles, and the device for the production of these bubbles is much less expensive. The next step will be to develop a pilot plant to test the system on an industrial scale.
Professor Zimmerman's team is already working with Tata Steel on a project to be implemented in England. Professor Zimmerman with his technology model based on microbubbles, is about to bring about the change the sector of biofuels he needs. Supporting the research, together with the University of Sheffield, were funding from the Engineering and Physical Siences Research Council, as well as funds from the Royal Society Innovetion Award and the Concept Found of Yorkshire Forward.
edited by Anna De Simone