Posts Tagged ‘biodiesel’

Renewable energy company Genifuel Corporation today announced a license from Pacific Northwest National Labs for a process to turn algae into natural gas.  The company began as an algae biodiesel company, but discovered that making liquid fuel wasn’t feasible, given the problems presented by genetic modification requirements, leftover biomass, and the arduous water separation process.  A few companies in the space are devising techniques to work around this, but Genifuel has taken its technology and done something even cooler.

Now it takes algae that grows in ponds and actually cooks it, which produces a synthetic gas that is 65% methane and 35% carbon dioxide.  The carbon dioxide is pumped back into the algae ponds as food, and voila!  We’re left with a natural gas that will actually require lower subsidies than its liquid algae counterpart to be competitive with fossil fuels. 

Genifuel is still looking for funding (isn’t every innovator these days?), but these guys definitely deserve at least a second look from a VC.  Way to take lemons (or in this case, slimy green plants), and turn them into… well, energy.

Read more:  http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/a-new-use-for-algae-natural-gas/


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Illustration by Pelle Mellor


As a biofuel, the advantages of coffee over alternative biofuels are numerous: it does not diverting crops from being a food source because it’s made from the left over coffee grounds. it’s consistently available globally, it can easily yield 10-15% of biodiesel by weight, it requires little or no tinkering because it has lower viscosity, manufacturing costs are at about $1 per gallon, and when burned it leaves a smell many of us love!


If you’re interested in producing some coffee-based biodiesel here’s the process, but it’s really better suited for a larger-scale producer:


“The diesel-extraction method for coffee grounds is similar to that used for other vegetable oils. It employs a process called transesterification, in which the grounds react with an alcohol in the presence of a catalyst. The coffee grounds are dried overnight and common chemical solvents, such as hexane, ether and dichloromethane, are added to dissolve the oils. The grounds are then filtered out and the solvents separated (to be reused with the next batch of coffee grounds). The remaining oil is treated with an alkali to remove free fatty acids (which form a soap). Then the crude biodiesel is heated to about 100ºC to remove any water, and treated with methanol and a catalyst, so that transesterification takes place. When cooled to room temperature and left to stand, the biodiesel floats up, leaving a layer of glycerine at the bottom. These layers are separated and the biodiesel is cleaned to remove any residues.

From Mar 5th 2009 The Economist print edition  http://www.economist.com/science/tq/displaystory.cfm?story_id=13174477

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