Algae for Production of Biodiesel and Omega-3 Oil, and Recovery of Heavy Metals

Grant Winners

  • Reza Razeghifard, Ph.D. – Farquhar College of Arts and Sciences
  • Dimitrios Giarikos, Ph.D. – Farquhar College of Arts and Sciences
  • Safiyah Muhhamad – Farquhar College of Arts and Sciences
  • Sarah Rodriguez – Farquhar College of Arts and Sciences

Dean

  • Don Rosenblum, Ph.D. – Farquhar College of Arts and Sciences

Abstract

Award Winners

Viable alternative energy sources are needed as the demand for oil and gas resources increases with the growth of the global economy and population. Microalgae are fast growing photosynthetic microorganisms that can produce biomass as an alternative source to vegetable oils for the production of biodiesel. Microalgae produce their biomass from CO2, sunlight, and water which are all abundant resources. The key factor for producing low-cost algal biodiesel is to find microalgal species that are rich in oil. Microalgae are known to switch their cellular metabolism under certain environmental conditions to store more oil. The best environmental stresses are those that can further increase their oil content without compromising their growth rate and biomass yield. The objectives of this proposal are to discover the biotechnological applications of two species of Neochloris algae that have not been explored previously by other investigators.

As the first objective, their growth rate and oil productivity will be measured and increased by optimizing the culturing conditions including the composition of growth medium, light intensity, and temperature. The second objective is to offset the production cost of algal biodiesel by isolating high-valued omega-3 docosahexaenoic (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) fatty acids from the algal oil prior to the biodiesel conversion. The third objective is bioremediation of polluted wastewater by microalgae since they can absorb heavy metals such as lead, chromium, copper, zinc and nickel.