This process was developed by an Arthur F. Thurnau professor and a professor of chemical engineering at the University of Michigan, Phil Savage, and doctoral student Julia Faeth. The found that when you superheat algae in a thin metal tube and then place it in 1,100-degree F, the algae heats to over 550 degrees in a minute. This, in turn, turns roughly 65 percent of the plant into biocrude.
“We’re trying to mimic the process in nature that forms crude oil with marine organisms,” said Savage in a press release.
Algae is no stranger to the fuel-world: Biofuel producers use dry algae and convert it into biocrude. This process is a breakthrough because it uses wet algae, it is efficient and ergo a lot cheaper as well, and it breaks down proteins and carbohydrates resulting in a better yield.
Currently, the biggest obstacle with algae fuel is cost—many algae fuels go for over $20 a gallon, making them economically unviable. But if this new method works out, the cost could significantly decrease.
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