nanoparticle Chia-wen Wu

NTU chemistry professor Chia-wen Wu.

Chen Wei-han of the Taipei Times reports that a National Taiwan University (NTU) research team has announced the formulation of a synthetic nanoparticle that is able to extract oil from algae and turn it into biodiesel.

The team, led by NTU chemistry professor Chia-wen Wu, synthesized a magnetic nanoparticle for harvesting microalgae, extracting algae oil and converting the oil’s fatty acids into a methyl ester, which is used in biodiesel. The team used iron oxide and silicon dioxide to form nanoparticles, which, when applied to algae solution, magnetically attract algae and convert their fat into biodiesel with an alkaline-based catalyst, Dr. Wu said.

Traditional algae-harvesting methods require large amounts of energy to break down cell walls, but the team’s nanoparticles effectively convert algae oil to biodiesel with a maximum yield of 97.1 percent of the oil’s fatty acid methyl esters, compared with existing methods, which yield less than 60 percent, Dr. Wu said.

NTU president Yang Pan-chyr said that the nanoparticles can also turn waste cooking oil into biodiesel. The innovation was the result of the NTU’s cooperation with Japan’s National Institute for Materials Science, a long-term project in the fields of energy, biomedicine, photonics and nanotechnology, he said.