Thinking Small for Big Biodiesel Production

John Davis

Iowa State University has received an $885,000 U.S. Department of Energy grant to see how small particles can be used to help make biodiesel production bigger.

This story from Biodiesel Magazine says the school’s Ames Laboratory is researching how nanoscale particles can be used to get chemical compounds (triglycerides, neutral lipids, and fatty acids) from microalgae for biodiesel production.

According to Kerry Gibson, a media relations staff member at Ames Lab, ISU just completed a research project that successfully used chemically-coated, honeycomb-like silica nanoscale particles to penetrate plant cell walls to deliver molecules to the cells. The biodiesel research project will attempt to use the nanoscale particles to penetrate the cell walls of microalgae to harvest chemicals from the algae to produce biodiesel without destroying the organisms. “It’s basically nanofarming,” Gibson said.

The lab will need to get another nearly $250,000 in funding for the three-year project, which is being headed by Victor Lin, Ames Lab chemist and ISU chemical and biological science program director.