The discovery of physicists from Russia would be able to replace gasoline with algae

© REUTERS / China Daily the Green algae at the seaside in Qingdao, ChinaThe discovery of physicists from Russia would be able to replace gasoline with algae© REUTERS / China Daily

Scientists from MIPT, MSU, Skoltech and Institute revealed the exact chemical composition of biofuels, manufactured from a single-celled algae, the study of which will help to make it more effective, says the article published in EJMS.

«Further work needs to be focused on the use of varieties of algae with high fat content and creation of varieties with genetic modifications. So we will be able to choose from them the most effective raw material for biofuel production», — says Evgeny Nikolaev, the employee of Skoltech and MIPT, quoted by the press service of MIPT.

Contrary to common views, the true «lungs of the Earth», producing most of the oxygen consumed by other life forms, are marine and freshwater algae, not by trees and other land plants. Apart from air, algae supply all marine organisms in nutrients, converting carbon dioxide and solar energy into sugars and other «edible» substances.

Algae are gaining biomass is several times faster than other photosynthetic organisms, which many researchers consider as the main candidate for the role of a substitute for gasoline and other fuels. In addition to the high growth rate, algae have many other advantages for their cultivation does not need fields, and their unicellular nature makes them easier processing into fuel.

Nikolaev and his colleagues found that in fact, the biofuel that is made from algae, similar in its properties and origin of crude oil or petroleum products, and some sort of green stuff. To such conclusion scientists have come, revealing the complete chemical composition of «liquefied» algae, which is biofuels.

As explained by Russian researchers, fuel from algae is produced not as it «boiled» out of the ordinary plant biomass – unicellular plankton contains too much water to be dried and then processed chemically. Algae are directly converted into biofuels, heating them to a temperature of 300 degrees Celsius and simultaneously compressing to very high pressures, is actually simulating something as there is oil in the Ground.

In this process, biomass is divided into liquid fuel and a thick «resin» that builds up on the bottom of the reactor. Both contain thousands of individual substances that interfere to determine their composition and assess how we need to change the «cooking» of the algae to improve fuel properties.

To determine the composition of the Russian scientists used the trick before to turn algae into biofuel, they soaked them in pairs of «heavy» water and alkali.

Heavy water and alkali, as the researchers explain, contains atoms of deuterium – heavy hydrogen, the nucleus of which there is not only one proton but also one neutron. Molecules containing deuterium, will have a somewhat different spectrum compared to their normal versions. This allowed not only to «read» the formulas of all components of biofuels, but also to «see» their three-dimensional structure.

As it turned out, «sea» biofuels consists of substances, most of which has nothing to do with hydrocarbons and other molecules contained in the oil. According to chemists, these substances are similar to some organic dyes, such as brilliant green, which is part of the green stuff.

Further study of this «bioselena», according to the authors, will help to understand what sort of algae it is best to use for making biofuels and how they can be modified, so they can replace gasoline and other fuels from fossil hydrocarbons.