UAE researchers discover biodiesel to run motor engines

algae-UAE-WR Fife sxc optUAE researchers have discovered a new type of oil extracted from microalgae that could work as an alternative to diesel, which they have said could run motor engines effectively without any modifications

The breakthrough biodiesel discovery is believed to be sustainable, biodegradable, non-toxic and can directly be used in diesel engines. It also produces lower harmful emissions, said the team of researchers at the UAE University (UAEU).

Hanifa Al Beloushi, a PhD student at the university, has been working on the project that was initiated three years ago at the chemical engineering department of the UAEU in collaboration with the mechanical engineering department at the UAEU and the chemical and materials engineering department at the University of Auckland in New Zealand. The team is also looking into extending the collaboration to include companies from the local industry.

Research was conducted on the microalgae, found in freshwater and marine systems, to discover a new environmentally-friendly diesel and its composition is similar to that of vegetable oils.

Al Beloushi and Al Zuhair, project researchers, said, “Microalgae have proven to be the best source of oil production due to its high production rate.”

Microalgae also utilise carbon dioxide (CO2) that has the concurrent advantages of reducing harmful emissions and the dependency on food substrates, such as glucose.

Furthermore, microalgae are capable of growing in saline water, which reduce freshwater loading, said the researchers.

Al Zuhair said the project started with cultivating different species of microalgae to select a suitable strain for biodiesel production.

“Various parameters were evaluated including oil productivity, CO2 fixation rates and adaptability to harsh conditions, such as high temperature and salinity,” he said.

The researchers have also been looking at developing a process to extract oil from microalgae and simultaneously produce biodiesel. “This could have a profound impact on future energy needs and the environment.”

Dr Ali Rashid Al Noaimi, vice chancellor of the UAEU, said, “As a research intensive university we continue to contribute to this transforming knowledge economy and hope that in time, the UAE can become a biofuel leader.”

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