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Releasing Stored Energy in Pond Scum

Graduate Fellow Jillian Blatti and Teacher Partner Janelle Javier

Microalgae have emerged as an attractive feedstock for the mass production of renewable transportation fuels due to their fast growth rate, flexible habitat preferences, and substantial oil yields. To develop a laboratory as an educational tool that mimics emerging algal biofuel technology, we describe the extraction of algal lipids and explore their transesterification into biodiesel. Students are first introduced to algae as an energy feedstock and taught how to cultivate and harvest algal biomass. Next, students learn how to convert algal biomass to a transportation fuel using transesterification and extraction, including an experimental comparison of base and acid catalyzed transesterification methods. The energy content of homemade algae biodiesel is determined and compared to soybean biodiesel and petroleum diesel using a homemade calorimeter.

Download Teacher Lesson Plan