New developments in algae specifically targeted at jet fuel could rescue a struggling airline industry and bring price relief to travelers.
Arizona State University has entered into a research and commercialization collaboration with Heliae Development, LLC and Science Foundation Arizona (SFAz) to develop, produce and sell kerosene-based aviation fuel derived from algae.
This biofuel project will focus on the commercial production of kerosene from algae using patented technologies developed by Professors Qiang Hu and Milton Sommerfeld at ASU’s Laboratory for Algae Research & Biotechnology.
The research efforts of Hu and Sommerfeld in algal-based biofuels and biomaterials have already moved from the laboratory to pilot-scale demonstration and production. They say their discoveries have demonstrated significant cost-reduction benefits when compared with traditional methods of producing kerosene from petroleum.
Hu and Sommerfeld have identified specific algal strains that produce oil high in concentration of medium-chain fatty acids, which, after deoxygenation treatment, closely mirrors the length of the hydrocarbon chains found in what is commonly called kerosene.
Kerosene, when mixed with minor amounts of fuel additives, is known as JP8 or Jet A, which is suitable for use in jet aviation applications. A competitive advantage of the medium-chain fatty acid-based kerosene production is elimination of an expensive chemical or thermal cracking process, which is otherwise necessary for long-chain fatty acids commonly found in animal fat, vegetable oils, and typical algae oils.