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Grantee Research Project Results

Extraction of Sugars from Algae for Direct Conversion to Butanol

EPA Grant Number: SU834701
Title: Extraction of Sugars from Algae for Direct Conversion to Butanol
Investigators: Hestekin, Jamie , Beitle, Robert , Lorenz, Nicole
Current Investigators: Hestekin, Jamie , Beitle, Robert , Bevan, Elizabeth , Carter, Ethan , Huslig, Megan , Ivey, Jill , Nakao, Hiroko , Penney, Roy , Rakestraw, Kylan , Rostro, Lizbeth , Stout, Jeremy
Institution: University of Arkansas at Fayetteville
EPA Project Officer: Nolt-Helms, Cynthia
Project Period: August 15, 2010 through August 14, 2011
Project Amount: $10,000
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2010)
Research Category: Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Challenge Area - Energy , P3 Challenge Area - Water

Description:

Objective:

The US imports over 60% of its crude oil on an annual basis. In order to obtain energy independence, different biofuels, feedstocks, and technologies must be explored. Algae are an exciting new feedstock because of its extremely fast growth rate, ability to grow on marginal land, and high oil and sugar content. However, although much research has been done on trying to convert algae oils into biodiesel, little has been done on converting the sugars and starches into fuel oxygenates and therefore the technology has yet to reach sustainable commercialization potential. In fact, there have been no studies on converting these sugars and starches into butanol, one of the next generation biofuels. Given that the sugar content can be estimated at over 15% by dry mass, this is a very important area of research in the future. The group at the University of Arkansas plans to take algae from a home built algal raceway, acid treat the algae, perform high heat treatment to break up algae cells and convert starches into fermentable sugars, ferment these sugars into butanol, and ultimately separate the butanol from the fermentation broth. This first of its kind study will yield a more complete understanding of the potential for algae to be used as fuel oxygenates in addition to the already identified benefits of using algae to make biodiesel. In Phase I of the project students will grow algae, ferment into butanol, and measure the cleanup of carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and phosphorous in the whole process. Further, they will do a full scale design and evaluate cost competitiveness to other technologies.

Approach:

In Phase I of the project students will grow algae, ferment into butanol, and measure the cleanup of carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and phosphorous in the whole process. Further, they will do a full scale design and evaluate cost competitiveness to other technologies. The algae will be grown in a raceway using samples of a local river. The sugars will be extracted, converted into usable sugars, and ran in a batch and\or continuous fermenter of approximately 1 L. The price of converting this in to fuel grade butanol will be based on these results and will be performed in an ASPEN simulation.

Expected Results:

We will have a complete full scale design at the end of this project including algae growth and butanol production. Further, the group will have a working prototype for display at the National Mall.

Supplemental Keywords:

Algae, butanol, carbon dioxide sequestration, nitrogen, phosphorus, and algal raceway;

Progress and Final Reports:
Final Report

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The perspectives, information and conclusions conveyed in research project abstracts, progress reports, final reports, journal abstracts and journal publications convey the viewpoints of the principal investigator and may not represent the views and policies of ORD and EPA. Conclusions drawn by the principal investigators have not been reviewed by the Agency.

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