Ready for Transfer

Process for Converting Algal Oil to Alternative Aviation Fuel



Laboratory: Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL)

Summary: Conversion of triglyceride oils extracted from algae-derived lipids into aircraft fuel is a critical goal development for our national energy security. Promising research at LANL, funded through the National Alliance for Advanced Biofuels and Bio-products (NAABB) algal biofuels consortium, has demonstrated a Kolbe-based chemical conversion process with very high hydrocarbon yields.

Description: LANL developed a conversion process that will remove oxygen atoms from the oil, and reform the resulting high molecular weight hydrocarbons into lower molecular weight hydrocarbons that can vaporize and ignite quickly, as required for all aviation fuels. In the process, a carboxyl group from the long chain carboxylates through an electrolysis process. Then, low-cost sodium bicarbonate is used to generate the necessary sodium salts of the acids. The salts then undergo a Kolbe reaction through electrolysis, resulting in hydrocarbons that can feed directly into the existing infrastructure for the production of high energy density fuels.

Results indicate that the production of hydrocarbons from this process occurs with 90%-100% yields. The existence of one, two, or three double bonds in the carboxylic acid does not cause complications, and many of the operating parameters have been understood. Additional experimentation has been successful using mixed carboxylic acids. For example, the reaction of acetic acid with the lipids has given rise to good yields of the hydrocarbons.

The characterization of this conversion process is a promising step in developing sustainable, economical biofuels from algae-derived lipids. Future research will involve experiments to attain greater understanding of the reaction parameters (e.g., scale, solvent, concentration, pH, and temperature) are directed at discovering: 1) if formic acid (potentially obtained from carbon dioxide) can be used as a donor in the Kolbe process, 2) whether raw algal oil fatty acids be used directly in this process, and 3) whether low temperature catalytic processes can be used directly on the triglycerides (algal oil) to produce hydrocarbons.

Potential Applications and Industries: Production of aviation fuel from algal lipids

Opportunity: Available for license

Contact: John Mott

View the complete listing at the DOE Energy Innovation Portal.