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New method to convert algae oil into transportation fuel

Study of biofuel is a hot topic because of oil shortage and carbon dioxide elimination. Among algae, there are lots of species which can produce oil more rapidly than land plants. For example, Professor Makoto Watanabe at the University of Tsukuba discovered algae, Aurantiochytrium sp. 18W-13a, as biofuel use for oil production.


Researcher Hideo Watanabe at the University of Tsukuba by the collaboration with Professor Keiichi Tomishige at the University of Tsukuba successfully developed a technology to convert hydrocarbon squalene from algae into gasoline and jet fuel. This study is a part of program called "Tohoku reconstruction next generation energy research and development" to use algae for drainage work. This time the development of the technology would be a clue to increase the usage of oil produced from algae as biofuel.


During the development of the technology, the team used the catalyst of ruthenium and oxidized cerium, and they get squalane from hydrogen squalene. Decomposition by hydrogenation makes small molecule hydrocarbon for the use of fuel. Unlike the existing technology related to petroleum, this study's substance does not contain any poisonous aromatic compound. They are simple and stable with the stability of catalyst.


Aurantiochytrium sp.18W-13a (left) and Squalene (right)

Aurantiochytrium sp.18W-13a (left) and Squalene (right)


Original Paper


Shin-ichi Oya, Daisuke Kanno, Hideo Watanabe, Masazumi Tamura, Yoshinao Nakagawa, and Keiichi Tomishige, Catalytic Production of Branched Small Alkanes from Biohydrocarbons, ChemSusChem, DOI: 10.1002/cssc.201500375

Celebrating the 151st{50th Anniversary of the University of Tsukuba
Celebrating the 151st{50th Anniversary of the University of Tsukuba