Use of Anion Exchange Resins for One-Step Processing of Algae from Harvest to Biofuel
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Some microalgae are particularly attractive as a renewable feedstock for biodiesel production due to their rapid growth, high content of triacylglycerols, and ability to be grown on non-arable land. Unfortunately, obtaining oil from algae is currently cost prohibitive in part due to the need to pump and process large volumes of dilute algal suspensions. In an effort to circumvent this problem, we have explored the use of anion exchange resins for simplifying the processing of algae to biofuel. Anion exchange resins can bind and accumulate the algal cells out of suspension to form a dewatered concentrate. Treatment of the resin-bound algae with sulfuric acid/methanol elutes the algae and regenerates the resin while converting algal lipids to biodiesel. Hydrophobic polymers can remove biodiesel from the sulfuric acid/methanol, allowing the transesterification reagent to be reused. We show that in situ transesterification of algal lipids can efficiently convert algal lipids to fatty acid methyl esters while allowing the resin and transesterification reagent to be recycled numerous times without loss of effectiveness.