Production of Methyl Ester Fuel from Microalgae

Nick Nagle, Pete Lemke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Microalgae are unique photosynthetic organisms that are known to accumulate storage lipids in large quantitites and thrive in saline waters. Before these storage lipids can be used, they must be extracted from the microalgae and converted into usable fuel. Transesterification of lipids produces fatty acid methyl esters that can be used as a diesel fuel substitute. Three solvents, 1-butanol, ethanol, and hexane/2-propanol, were evaluated for extraction efficiency of microalgal lipids. Type of catalyst, concentration of catalyst, time of reaction, temperature of reaction, and quality of lipid were examined as variables for transesterification. The most efficient solvent of the three for extraction was 1-butanol (90% efficiency), followed by hexane/2-propanol and ethanol. Optimal yield of fatty acid methyl esters was obtained using 0.6N hydrochloric acid in methanol for 0.1 h at 70 degrees C.
Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)355-361
Number of pages7
JournalApplied Biochemistry and Biotechnology - Part A Enzyme Engineering and Biotechnology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1990

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5100-72033


  • conversion
  • extraction
  • lipids
  • methylesters
  • microalgae


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