INSPIRE research fellow developing low-cost biodiesel from microalgae
25 August 2020
Production of low-cost biodiesel from microalgae of marine origin may soon be a reality thanks to the efforts of a scientist who is working on biotechnological studies and tools for increasing the lipid accumulation in microalgae for biodiesel production.
In his search for alternative fuels from renewable and sustainable sources, T Mathimani from the National Institute of Technology, Tiruchirappalli in Tamil Nadu started exploring the fuel potential of algae residing in the vast marine environment, which remains untapped.
While different types of biofuels have been explored recently, the use of microalgae has been strongly considered for the production of biofuels since they present a series of advantages over other biofuel feedstock.
His submission on techniques for enhancing Triacylglycerol content in marine microalgae towards economic biodiesel production received the Innovation in Science Pursuit for Inspired Research (INSPIRE) faculty fellowship instituted by the Department of Science & Technology.
As per the research paper published in the journal ‘Chemosphere’, Mathimani and his team have isolated predominant strains of marine microalgal species, namely, Picochlorum sp, Scenedesmus sp, Chlorella sp, found in the coastal regions of Tamil Nadu for their potential in terms of total organic carbon content, and Triacylglycerides (TAG) content for biodiesel production.
They are now focusing on other microalgal candidates for their multiple biotechnological potentials and switchable polarity solvent (SPS) system based lipid extraction. SPS is an energy-efficient switchable solvent that can be recovered devoid of any thermal processes and can be reused as green solvent for algal lipid extraction with no effect on the environment.
Metabolic engineering approaches can be used to escalate TAG accumulation for increasing biodiesel yield, while magnetic nanocomposite (MNC) can be used for several cycles of algal dewatering, and its treated culture suspension can be reused to scale down the biodiesel production cost significantly. These three approaches would be considered in their study for sustainable and low-cost production of biodiesel.
The group will formulate a roadmap by which biodiesel can be produced commercially and can be put in an energy market sustainably.