Sun, Oct 03, 2010 - Page 3 News List

ITRI unveils biofuel from microalgae technology plans

Staff Writer, with CNA

A research institute yesterday unveiled a Taiwan-developed technology for producing biofuel from microalgae, as part of efforts to target the growing environmentally friendly renewable energy industry.

The Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI), which developed the technology, showed off the process of turning microalgae into biodiesel at the four-day Taipei International Invention Show and Technomart exhibition, organized by the Taiwan External Trade Development Council and scheduled to end today.

Microalgae, which have extraordinary potential for cultivation as an energy crop, consume large quantities of carbon dioxide and produces oxygen through photosynthesis.

During the process of consuming carbon dioxide, microalgae turn the carbon dioxide into materials that contain a certain amount of oil.

ITRI used these materials to produce crude lipids that can then be converted into biodiesel. According to ITRI, 1g of algae can be used to produce 0.5g of lipids.

“Taiwan is encircled by the ocean, which makes it very convenient for obtaining microalgae to produce biodiesel,” said Lin Yun-hui (林昀輝), a manager of ITRI’s biofuel laboratory.

Lin said 1 liter of ocean water contains 1g of microalgae, which can be multiplied to about 5g after a week of cultivation.

“However, we have invented multi-layer filters that are able to boost the density of the microalgae in ocean water and extract about 120g to 150g from a single liter of ocean water,” Lin said.

However, Lin said that the cost of producing microalgae biodiesel is quite high and it therefore remains to be seen when such fuel would become commercially viable.

ITRI’s microalgal biofuel production technology development has been financially sponsored by the Bureau of Energy under the Ministry of Economic Affairs in a four-year project that started last year and will cost a total of NT$240 million (US$7.67 million).

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