reports that Johannes A. Lercher and his team at the Technische Universität München have introduced a new catalytic process that allows the effective conversion of biopetroleum from microalgae into diesel fuels. 

The Munich scientists are proposing a new process, for which they have developed a novel catalyst: nickel on a porous support made of zeolite HBeta.

They have used this to achieve the conversion of raw, untreated algae oil under mild conditions (260°C, 40 bar hydrogen pressure). Says Lercher: “The products are diesel-range saturated hydrocarbons that are suitable for use as high-grade fuels for vehicles.”

The oil produced by the microalgae is mainly composed of neutral lipids, such as mono-, di-, and triglycerides with unsaturated C18 fatty acids as the primary component (88 %). After an eight-hour reaction, the researchers obtain 78 % liquid alkanes with octadecane (C18) as the primary component. The main gas-phase side products were propane and methane.