Office of Technology Transfer – University of Michigan

Fast Liquefaction of Wet Biomass

Technology #5406

Algal biofuels as a renewable source of energy

Microalgae are promising third-generation energy sources due to the large amount of biofuels stored in them. They can survive in undesirable aquatic and maritime environments, and do not compete with traditional food crops. When algae is harvested, they can either be dried and heated to generate lipids, or they can undergo a process known as hydrothermal liquefaction (HTL), which is more efficient than pyrolysis due to the lack of a drying step.

A high efficiency reaction with high yield of biocrude

Preliminary results from investigators at the University of Michigan suggest the existence of hydrothermal liquefaction reaction conditions that are more environmentally friendly. They show that rapid heating of a particular strain of microalgae resulted in a greater yield of biocrude and light biocrude than heating at the nominal temperature for a longer period of time. These suggest that there could be significant savings in energy costs due to the removal of an extended period of energy-intensive heating.

Applications and Advantages

Applications

  • Algal biofuels
  • Conversion of biomass to biocrude

Advantages

  • Cheaper and more efficient way to extract biofuels from algae