Uses for Algae Glycerol
In order for algae-sourced fuel to compete economically with petroleum diesel, manufacturers must make the most of every part of the process. The glycerol that is created in biodiesel production must be harnessed and not wasted. Glycerol is a colorless, odorless simple sugar alcohol. It connects three fatty acids to form a triglyceride.
One use for the glycerol by-product is as a feedstock for algae. Researchers have found that algae grown with glycerol have greater mass and higher lipid content. Therefore, they are even better for the purpose of biodiesel.
The food industry uses glycerol as a sweetener, preservative, thickener and moistener. Glycerol is used in lotions, lubricants and other skin care products.
The Formula E electric car racing series has found perhaps the most revolutionary purpose for glycerol. All of their cars are charged with it. The vehicles are moved around the globe from race to race. Charging them from potentially dirty power grids would contradict the message about sustainability Formula E is sending. So the league brings its own chargers powered by algae glycerol.
Aquafel Research built a pair of glycerol-fueled generators which travel in a shipping container with the teams. Not only is the fuel nearly emissions-free, but it runs cleaner in the machines as well. The generators are modified Cummins KTA50 models which typically run on diesel. Running on glycerol, there is no soot, no clogging and increased lubricity. The machines are more efficient and require less maintenance.
The algae glycerol is such a clean fuel that Sir Richard Branson, sponsor of the Virgin Formula E team, drank a shot of it at a press conference. Do that with your racing fuel.