Pyrolysis of Algal Biomass in a Solar Furnace Reactor

EPA Grant Number: SU836018
Title: Pyrolysis of Algal Biomass in a Solar Furnace Reactor
Investigators: Deng, S. , Wise, Christopher
Current Investigators: Deng, S. , Willis, Adam , Garcia, Chris , Wise, Christopher , Herrera, Edward , Dailey, Peter , Muppaneni, Tapaswy
Institution: New Mexico State University - Main Campus
EPA Project Officer: Hahn, Intaek
Phase: I
Project Period: August 15, 2011 through August 14, 2012
Project Amount: $15,000
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2011) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Challenge Area - Sustainable and Healthy Communities , P3 Challenge Area - Air Quality , P3 Awards , Sustainable and Healthy Communities


Algal biofuel is one of the most promising renewable energy resources that could potentially replace part of the fossil fuels for driving tomorrow’s economy. A large quantity of lipid extracted algal biomass will be produced if the algae-based economy is implemented. The success of the algal economy not only depends on the main liquid fuel products, but also the optimal use of algal biomass residues. The New Mexico State University team proposed a solar-driven pyrolysis process for converting either whole algae or algal biomass residues into liquid or gaseous fuels to enhance the energy recovery from the algal biomass. This project will strongly support our on-going algal biofuel research by using a unique solar furnace that can provide 4.2 kW of solar thermal energy at 1600°C.


We will design a lab-scale pyrolysis reactor powered by a solar furnace to convert algal biomass to both liquid and gaseous products at controlled conditions. The power output from the solar furnace will be measured to provide accurate power inputs and control for the pyrolysis reaction. The feedstock and pyrolysis reaction products will be analyzed for compositions and energy content. Economic analysis of the pyrolysis process will also be performed.

Expected Results:

The solar-driven pyrolysis reactor and the experimental data on pyrolysis of algal biomass will significantly contribute to the overall algal biofuel research programs being carried out at New Mexico State University and other organizations. The fundamental knowledge developed in this project can contribute to the beneficial utilization of other organic solid wastes.

The proposed pyrolysis process will be able to convert solid wastes produced in algal biofuel production into positive energy by using solar energy. This process can also be used for processing other organic solid wastes that may otherwise negatively impact the environment.

Supplemental Keywords:

Algal biofuel, sustainability, biomass, pyrolysis, solar furnace, liquid fuels, fuel gas

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report