esearchers at the Paul Scherer Institute (PSI) in Wädenswil, Switzerland, have succeeded in producing energy-rich gas from microalgae, and in doing so have demonstrated that this new method is technically feasible.
Although algae have immense potential as an energy source, scientists have lacked an efficient process to produce energy from wet biomass. A new method used by PSI researchers, together with colleagues from the Materials Science Institute Empa, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL) and the HSR Hochschule für Technik Rapperswil, may be a significant breakthrough.
Instead of drying the biomass – which uses a considerable amount of energy – the scientists used water as a reaction medium. The water was placed in a supercritical state, in which it is neither liquid nor gaseous, but instead has properties of both forms. This process of hydrothermal methanation makes it possible to extract 60 to 75 per cent of the energy available in the starting materials.
The scientists carried out their successful experiment in a facility located in the Grüental Campus of the Zurich University of Applied Sciences in Wädenswil. The facility will be open to visitors on 24 September.