Biodiesel is a promising alternative to the petroleum-based energy production. There are two steps that would need to be taken for producing biodiesel on a large scale—growing the feedstock, and processing them into biodiesel. The main issue that is often contested is whether or not we would be able to grow enough crops to provide the vegetable oil (feedstock) for producing the amount of biodiesel that would be required to completely replace petroleum as a transportation fuel.

Ryan Hunt, research staff member, with the Sartorius Biostat small scale photo bioreactor. Sartorius specifications >>

See Ryan Hunt's poster (with S. Chinnasamy and K.C. Das) "Microalgae Mediated Biodiesel Production Using Poultry Litter" presented at Sunbelt Agricultural Exposition, 2007. View PDF >>

See K.C. Das's poster "Microalgae Bioenergy Technology: An Integrated Approach to Biofuel Production" presented at Sunbelt Agricultural Exposition, 2007. View PDF>>

In addition, one of the important concerns about wide-scale development of biodiesel is if it would displace croplands currently used for food crops. At heart, biofuels are a form of solar energy, as plants use photosynthesis to convert solar energy into chemical energy stored in the form of oils, carbohydrates and proteins.

The more efficient a particular plant is at converting that solar energy into chemical energy, the better it is from a biofuels perspective. Among the most photosynthetically efficient plants are various types of algae, abundantly available in many ecosystems. Among the diverse algae, the aquatic microalgae are one of the efficient organisms in the use of photo-energy for biomass production.

Aquatic microalgae can use sunlight, nutrients in wastewater and CO2 from waste flue gases and fermentation off gases to produce biomass rapidly and efficiently. As the potential benefits are enormous, research focus on algal production using waste streams and CO2 emissions need a high priority.

This segment of the Biorefining Program is truly a multidisciplinary research endeavor involving expertise of scientist from various fields such as phycology, microbiology, agriculture, aquaculture, mechanical, chemical and process engineering, physics, and animal sciences to develop cost effective front and back end commercial scale technologies to produce algae biofuels from marine and fresh water microalgae and macroalgae. Ongoing research includes developing algae production, harvesting, and conversion technologies at the bench and pilot scales.Conversion technologies being studied include pyrolysis, liquefaction, gasification, catalytic conversion, fermentation, and transesterfication.


  • To develop a combined biotechnological system for processing/treatment of agricultural and industrialwastes such as wastewater and flue gases for production of microalgae biomass.
  • Determine the optimal growth conditions for enhanced growth and lipid production
  • Enhance growth rate and lipid production using novel technologies such as bioenergetic stimulation
  • To develop cost-effective large-scale microalgae cultivation systems.
  • To develop technologies for harvesting algal cells and extraction and conversion of lipids/ biohydrocarbons into biodiesel or bio-oil.
  • Examine the algal biomass for production of value added products
  • To conduct LCA, technical, and economic analysis of renewable energy and biofuel production from algae biomass as feedstock.
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Microalgae growth chamber Microalgae Cultures


  • Utilization of industrial, agricultural, aquaculture and municipal wastewaters and livestock industry wastes such as poultry litter for biomass production
  • Isolating and identifying suitable photo and heterotrophic microalgal strains from different habitats for biofuel production
  • Developing novel carbon capture and delivery technologies
  • Enhancing algal biomass productivity through biological nitrogen fixation
  • Developing low cost advanced fiber flocculation and electroflocculation technologies for harvesting algal cells
  • Improving lipid extraction efficiency through explosive decompression technology
  • Developing advanced non chemical lipid extraction methods
  • Design and Engineering of novel low cost reactor configuration for mass cultivation of algae
  • Developing low cost technologies for ethanol production from algal biomass
  • Developing Biomethane production and up-gradation technology using algal biomass feedstock to replace conventional transportation liquid fuels

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Microalgae raeways Microalgae raeway; detail


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Vertical reactors Algae growth sample