Monash chemical engineers in algae-to-hydrogen breakthrough


Monash University has announced what it says is a breakthrough method of creating hydrogen and methane gases from microalgae.

A team from Monash University’s Department of Chemical Engineering, IITB-Monash Research Academy Mumbai, and The Indian Institute of Technology’s Department of Chemical Engineering have developed a “reactive flash volatilisation” method. This uses temperatures between 550-650°C and steam as a gasifying agent.

Hydrogen and methane are clean sources of fuel and green chemical synthesis only if they are produced from renewable resources. At present, 96% of hydrogen and all methane is produced using non-renewable resources,” said Associate Professor Akshat Tanksale from Monash University, a co-author of the work, published in  Journal of Cleaner Production.

“Microalgae as a feedstock is attractive due to its high carbon dioxide fixation efficiency, growth rate, photosynthetic efficiency, ability to grow in brackish water – like rivers and lakes – and the ability to cultivate it on land not suitable for agriculture.

“Water and renewable electricity integration with microalgae harvesting can bring down the costs and increase the sustainability of hydrogen production from this process.”

According to a statement from Monash, greenhouse gas emissions to create hydrogen using RFV on microalgae is were 36 per cent lower versus steam reforming of methane gas, which is the current best practice for hydrogen manufacture.

“With additional renewable energy processes, such as hydro-electricity, integrated with the researchers’ hydrogen production process, carbon emissions could drop”  up to 87 per cent, according to the researchers.

Microalgae has many uses, with various strains believed to hold untapped potential in areas including creating biofuel, pharmaceutical and food manufacturing.


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