Microbial Solution: Application of Microorganisms for Biofuel Production and CO2 Mitigation

EPA Grant Number: SU833915
Title: Microbial Solution: Application of Microorganisms for Biofuel Production and CO2 Mitigation
Investigators: Markov, Sergei A. , Schiller, Joseph R.
Institution: Austin Peay State University
EPA Project Officer: Nolt-Helms, Cynthia
Phase: I
Project Period: August 15, 2008 through August 14, 2009
Project Amount: $10,000
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2008) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Challenge Area - Energy , P3 Awards , Sustainability


The world is facing a potential energy crisis due to fossil fuel energy demand and population increase. Pollution from fossil fuels affects public health, and causes global climate change because of carbon dioxide (CO2) release. One of the ideas to solve this problem is to use microorganisms that can provide both renewable energy and CO2 removal from the atmosphere. The objective of this project is to convert solar energy and waste CO2 (carbon dioxide that is released in power plants by burning fossil fuels) into an array of biofuels by sequential use of microorganisms in bioreactors.


An interdisciplinary student team will first use microalgae in a photobioreactor to efficiently produce oil using CO2 and solar light as an energy source. Then, produced oil will be converted into biodiesel by transesterification. Next, glycerol (also known as glycerin), a by-product of biodiesel production, will be used as a substrate for making H2 (biohydrogen) and ethanol by immobilized bacteria in a bioreactor. Finally, students will test the produced biofuels: biodiesel, H2 and ethanol in model engines. While these proof of concept studies will use purchased CO2, an abundant supply of waste CO2 from local power plants is available for commercial scale up.

Specific aims of this project are: (1) to design and build a novel photobioreactor for photoconversion of CO2 into oil (biodiesel) by microalgae using solar light as the energy source; (2) to develop and test a hollow-fiber bioreactor for efficient fermentation of glycerol, the by-product of microalgal biodiesel production, into H2 and ethanol by bacteria; (3) to investigate the feasibility of using CO2 emissions from local power plants and wineries for its utilization by microalgae in a photobioreactor.

Expected Results:

The project offers a number of considerable benefits for people, prosperity and the planet. This study will demonstrate the effectiveness of microorganisms in bioreactors for the conversion of solar energy and waste CO2 into biofuels such as biodiesel, biohydrogen and ethanol which are renewable, biodegradable alternatives to gasoline and diesel. Use of microorganisms for production of biofuels does not rely on food sources. At the same time, such microbial technology will provide the means for utilization of CO2 which is generated by industrial plants.

The P3 concepts and project results will be incorporated into the current and new courses at APSU, as well as in research projects for our students.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 4 publications for this project

Journal Articles:

Journal Articles have been submitted on this project: View all 1 journal articles for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

Alternative energy source, renewable energy, clean energy, solar energy, renewable fuel, waste to energy, CO2 mitigation,, RFA, Scientific Discipline, Air, Sustainable Industry/Business, POLLUTION PREVENTION, Sustainable Environment, Energy, Environmental Chemistry, climate change, Air Pollution Effects, Technology for Sustainable Environment, Atmosphere, environmental monitoring, sustainable development, environmental sustainability, alternative materials, biomass, alternative fuel, biodiesel fuel, energy efficiency, energy technology, carbon credits, alternative energy source

Progress and Final Reports:

Final Report