High-Quality Algal Biofuel Production through Lipids Transesterification – UROP Symposium

High-Quality Algal Biofuel Production through Lipids Transesterification

Kaitlin Nguyen

Research Mentor(s): Taehoon Han
Program: CCSFP
Authors: Kaitlin Nguyen, Undergraduate, Taehoon Han, PhD


The significant rise in population and deterioration of fossil fuels has prompted many researchers to develop methods to reduce carbon emissions from vehicles such as the use of biodiesel. Transesterification has become more popular as it utilizes animal fat, vegetable oils, waste cooking oils, and even microalgae lipids to produce biodiesel. As the recognition of biodiesel is increasing, this study was conducted to develop new techniques for the optimization of algal lipids through transesterification. The ratio of coconut oil to methanol (MeOH) that was used in this experiment was based on a 1:18 molar ratio, but because it was too much, we decided to use about 25.5% of both the coconut oil’s and MeOH’s molar ratio. The coconut oil was put into a beaker and pre-heated to 60 degrees Celsius, while 1.5 w/t% of potassium hydroxide (KOH) was mixed until dissolved with MeOH in a different beaker. This mixture was then gradually poured into the pre-heated coconut oil and was then constantly mixed at approximately 300 RPM for 1 hour, keeping the temperature consistent at 60-65 degrees Celsius. After letting it settle overnight, the mixture was separated by using a pipette and washed multiple times with deionized (DI) water to obtain pure biodiesel. The reaction time, temperature, and amount of KOH were changed to investigate which mixture had the highest purity levels. Although coconut oil and algae lipids vary in fatty acid content, this experiment allows us to have a recipe to refer to if and when we decide to use algal lipids in transesterification. To analyze the purity levels, we compared it to commercialized biodiesel for its CP+PP (cloud point and pour point), TGA (thermalgravimetric analysis), FTIR (Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy) and checked for its ULSD (ultra-low sulfur content). The CP+PP, TGA, and FTIR results will allow us to compare our biodiesel to commercialized biodiesel and determine whether it fits the standards of ATSM, and if it’s purer than the upgrading process. Overall, the developed algal biodiesel production via transesterification reaches the standards and purity levels to utilize as an alternative to diesel fuel.

lsa logoum logo