Algae Biofuel Osmosis Dewatering (ABODE): A novel process for biofuel feedstock generation and advances in microalgae separation using forward osmosis

EPA Grant Number: SU836132
Title: Algae Biofuel Osmosis Dewatering (ABODE): A novel process for biofuel feedstock generation and advances in microalgae separation using forward osmosis
Investigators: Lee, Woo Hyoung
Institution: University of Central Florida
EPA Project Officer: Sergeant, Anne
Phase: I
Project Period: September 1, 2015 through August 31, 2016
Project Amount: $15,000
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2015) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: P3 Awards , Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , Sustainability , P3 Challenge Area - Energy


The proposed research project will establish and advance fundamentals associated with a ‘waste–products’ vision centered on recycling organic waste to a biofuel. Almost seven billion humans on earth today are dependent on fossil energy as a major energy source. Over the coming decades, it will be increasingly prudent to develop and implement strategies for obtaining sustainable energy. This is to not only reduce the quantity of carbon and greenhouse gases entering the atmosphere, but to also achieve a reliable domestic energy source. There is clear motivation to use algae as a biofuel feedstock due to its rapid growth rate and high lipid to biomass ratio compared to other crops traditionally used for biofuels. Algae production capitalizes on sensible land and water use as well as algae's natural ability to uptake nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, which would otherwise further derogate waterways through eutrophication. Despite the lengthy list of benefits offered by algae-based biofuel, full-scale implementation of algae as a bioenergy source has been prohibitively expensive. To overcome some of the economic barriers for implementing algae-biostock production, this research aims to integrate previously studied methods for increasing efficiency and lowering production costs in algae cultivation. Our process, termed ABODE (Algae Biofuel Osmosis Dewatering), involves a photobioreactor for the growth of algae using secondary waste water with an attached forward osmosis (FO) extraction process to dewater the algae for bioenergy production using sustainable, low-cost draw solutions.


The research objectives of this study are three-fold: (1) to design and construct a bioreactor for the purpose of growing algae, as well as to extract said algae using FO; (2) to evaluate different draw solutions in order to optimize algae collection while minimizing cost and resources; and (3) to determine the most suitable growing conditions for algae in this environment. The described ABODE process is expected to positively affect the planet by treating waste water, capturing greenhouse gases and reducing the carbon footprint of energy dependent applications like power plants and vehicle emissions. The ABODE process will generate economic prosperity by creating and maintaining domestic jobs and bioenergy production. People would benefit from the ABODE processed by generating improved national security with the internalization of bioenergy production and enhanced quality of life through less polluted water and air. Overall, the ABODE process creates a sustainable approach for meeting society's energy needs. An interdisciplinary student team at UCF will emphasis the “learning” concept and integrate knowledge basis from process design to feasibility study of biofuel feedstock generation, representing potentially transformative research in wastewater treatment and waste management. Results of this P3 project will be assessed to determine the most effective A&WMA program linkages: a webinar will be produced and delivered in the summer of 2016. This will provide an appropriate avenue to promote sustainability practices in a community.

Expected Results:

This project aims to develop a more sustainable means of growing and collecting algae as a bioenergy source. The proposed system is a comprehensive method that seeks to maximize lipid productivity in the growth phase of our system, and then uses sustainable and low energy techniques to easily collect the algae so its lipids can be extracted. This project is ambitious in the sense that it encompasses multiple phases of algal-biofuel processing. However, since algae is a difficult bioenergy source to produce economically, it is important to design an all inclusive system that has the lowest possible energy requirements. Every component of the proposed ABODE system will be evaluated for its maximum productivity. It is expected that our system will turn algae biofuel into an economically achievable energy source by exceeding the benchmark energy return on investment (EROI) of 3:1.

Supplemental Keywords:

Algae, Algae separation, Biofuel feedstock, Forward osmosis, Sustainability, Wastewater