Illinois Sustainable Technology Center - University of Illinois

ISTC Sustainability Seminar Series

Nanofarming (with algae): Multifunctional Mesoporous Nanoparticles for Biofuel Production

Victor Lin, Iowa State University Dept. of Chemistry & Director of the Chemical and Biological Sciences Program at Ames Laboratory

October 26, 2009

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We have developed a series of surface-functionalized mesoporous nanoparticle materials with various porous structures and functional groups. By tuning the surface properties and the pore morphology, we discovered that these materials could selectively adsorb free fatty acids (FFAs) from microalgae. The uptake mechanism, fatty acid adsorptivity, and biocompatibility of these mesoporous nanoparticles with different types of algae have been investigated. In addition, we have developed a series of mesoporous mixed oxide catalysts for the synthesis of biodiesel from various free fatty acid (FFA)-containing oil feedstocks. We have demonstrated that the acid and base sites of the mixed oxide catalysts could cooperatively catalyze both the esterification of FFAs and the transesterification of oils with short-chain alcohols (e.g. methanol and ethanol) to form fatty acid alkyl esters (biodiesel). We envision that these multifunctionalized mesoporous nanoparticles could serve as new recyclable materials for the sequestration of fuel-relevant chemicals from algae and the catalytic conversion of these compounds to biofuels.

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