May 13, 2008

Tuticorin institute achieves breakthrough

TUTICORIN: The Fisheries College and Research Institute (FCRI) here has made a breakthrough by standardising a research protocol for production of bio-fuel from marine micro algae.

A team of scientists at the Fisheries Biotechnology Centre of the FCRI, led by S. Felix, has extracted bio-fuel from marine micro algae using ‘Transestrification (conversion of an organic acid ester into another ester of that same acid) Method,’ involving catalysed chemical reaction on micro algal oil.

“We have used sulphuric acid as a catalyst for transestrification during our trials,” said V. K. Venkataramani, Dean. Marine micro algae isolated from seawater was first cultivated under autotrophic and heterotrophic culture systems. In autotrophic system, the algae were grown in a standardised culture medium. Culture vessels were thermostatically controlled at 25 degree Celsius in the air-conditioned laboratory of the institute and illuminated at 1,000 lux by cool white fluorescent lamps.

“The mass culture has been achieved by transferring algal broth culture to larger capacity tanks,” Dr Venkataramani said.

Under heterotrophic conditions, mass culture of algae was performed in a bioreactor of 3.1 litre capacity under ‘controlled state’ to achieve high lipid accumulation.

Micro algal cells harvested from the culture solution were pulverized and bio-lipid oil was extracted with suitable solvents. A standard reaction mixture consisting oil, methanol and concentrate was then heated for a specific period and transferred to a tailor-made funnel where the bio-fuel was separated.

The institute planned to develop an ‘industrial model plant’ for mass production of bio-fuel using this method.

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