sonoenzymatic treatment? Making Algae Diesel

Discussion in 'The Projects Forum' started by bundick, Nov 25, 2009.

  1. bundick

    Thread Starter Active Member

    Dec 19, 2007
    Using Algae (pond Scum) to make diesel.
    When the Algae is dried, most of the water is out, then the oil can be extracted from the Lipids.
    Lipids are little capsules with oil inside. The Capsule has to be broken down so the oil can escape.
    One method of doing this is with Ultrasonic bombardment.
    It's referred to as "sonoenzymatic treatment"
    I'm this far along.
    I've been dealing with Chemists and their vocabulary. I'm a layman there, and its been a tough go.

    Now I need an Ultrasonic Howitzer to liberate some oil from dried Cake.
    To start I'll just have a handful of Algae Cake. If this works out to be a viable thing I'll be doing larger amounts of cake.

    I'd like to know some things about this Ultrasonic Bombardment.
    How to make one or buy one and what kind of enclosure I need so I dont ruin my Barn.
    How far do the waves travel? What are the operator dangers? Fire dangers?
    I'm still learning and I'd hate to find out this is something I'd better not be fooling with.:rolleyes:
  2. SgtWookie


    Jul 17, 2007
    Very interesting idea, and quite worthwhile pursuing. God knows we have an endless supply of pond scum here in the South! :D

    Up North, they call it "lawyers." (rimshot) :rolleyes:

    The question here is: how much energy will it take to break down these lipids?

    What is the size of these lipids?

    I'm thinking that if the size were known, it would make a good target for a wavelength. If you could hit the resonant frequency of a lipid (if there is one), it might come apart rather easily.

    I'm pretty hazy on ultrasonic, and ultrasonic transducers. Seems to me that ultrasonic sound doesn't travel too far; high frequency sound gets attenuated (diminished, reduced, sucked up) more rapidly than low frequencies do.

    I think it works best if done with a fluid medium. Of course, that may be a problem, as you just spent weeks drying the things out, right? And they probably won't break up if they are wet - with water, anyway.

    So, I'm thinking more of a fluid like grain alcohol. Grain alcohol or isopropyl alcohol might be a good solvent for the oil that's in the lipids, and if there is no moisture in the alcohol, the lipids possibly won't re-gain their former flexibility/elasticity.

    Have you read anything like that? I don't know, I'm just speculating.

    Anyway, after the ultrasonic bazooka blasted the lipids to itsy bits, the oil might be dissolved into the alcohol. The lipids may be able to be strained from the alcohol/oil mix, or extracted via a centrifuge, etc - then the alcohol could be distilled at low temperature and recovered from the oil, which would remain behind.

    The next problem would be how to construct a transducer for ultrasonic waves. I'm really not quite certain; I've never investigated it. Perhaps a thin steel plate actuated by a coil. It would have to have a pretty low mass.

    Generating frequencies in the ultrasonic range isn't very hard; even a 555 timer can do that. It's getting it amplified and supplying a decent transducer that will be the challenge.
  3. jpanhalt


    Jan 18, 2008
    I think you may be referring to liposomes ( You would need to disrupt the outer, hydrophilic coating to get at an oil/lipid on the inside.

    If you are talking about very tiny lipid droplets, like certain emulsions, then the approach would be different.

    In the latter case, I would just use solvent extraction, such as with chloroform, or very high speed centrifugation. Alternatively, simple distillation might break the emulsion.

    In the case of liposomes, an enzymatic approach to disrupting them might be considered eco-friendly. Chemically, you might consider a mixture of chloroform, alcohol (methanol, ethanol, propanol, or butanol) and water. NB: chloroform and water are immiscible; the alcohol facilitates solution of chloroform into the water. Such terniary solvents are used to extract phospholipids and can disrupt the outer coat of the liposomes.

    Before going to either method, I would ask what the particular lipid you want is and is it the lipid in the wall of the liposome or a lipid actually in the core of the liposome?

  4. bundick

    Thread Starter Active Member

    Dec 19, 2007
    That's some pretty good speculatioin.
    Your gonna laugh at this part. There is a method of breaking down the cell walls with a solvent. The one they like to use is called Hexane.
    One guy suggested I find a 'Meth Cooker' to show me how to make a still to get the Solvent away from the oil.

    I went to Wiki and read quite a bit about this Sono-Science but the Frequency was not mentioned. I did a search on this forum and got two hits on Ultrasound but nothing helped me out.
    I'll keep looking and meanwhile maybe somebody will show up with the answers.
    So far, when the answers come to light, I cant understand what they Scientists are saying. I have to look up every noun on Wiki.
    Didn't go far enough in Grade school :)
  5. bundick

    Thread Starter Active Member

    Dec 19, 2007
    john, I don't know how to answer to your question.
    If I knew the name of the Algae would that help?

    The Algae will be dried with something like a hair dryer to take out the water.
    Then its squeezed to take out the oil.
    For my small handful of test Algae I'll use something like a Garlic press.
    They say a handful would be six square inches of Powdered Algae.
    By the time it goes through a Garlic Press, about a half Oz of Oil will come out.

    That tiny bit will have the burnable oil in lipids. (at that point the Oil is burnable in the Diesel engines equipped to burn SVO etc)
    After removing the Lipid capsule, the oil will burn in any diesel.

    So for my test batch the amount of oil may only be an Oz. or two.
    Will this oil get warm or hot during the Sound wave bombardment?
    If it exceeds 800 degrees it might burst into flame.

    At this point I don't know how to tell if the Lipids are gone, or how to separate the destroyed lipid cell walls from the Good oil.
    So far,the Hexane (meth cooker) idea seems to be the most recommended. Sonification was another Eco friendly option. I was hoping it would be cheaper or something a small operator could do. That would be 50 to 100 Gal's per month.

    I'm still learning and investigating. It will be interesting to know how much power the Sonification would use to do a gallon or even a bucket full.
    Will I still have to use the Hexane method to take the Lipid hulls out of the burnable mix?
    Questions like that still have to be answered.
  6. jpanhalt


    Jan 18, 2008
    It has to be speculation, because it is not clear what you are trying to do. For example, you now introduce a new component, "cells." Are you referring to lipid droplets, liposomes, or cells? What type of lipid are you trying to extract? Is it a phospholipid, triglyceride, etc.?

    Hexane will certainly dissolve some lipids. However, it will be less effective than a terniary solvent (as described) for phospholipids because the outer coating on liposomes and many cells (again, please use the right word) is hydrophilic. That coating will have a molecular layer of water on it that keeps the hexane away.

    I am not a met cooker, but I just told you how to do it.

    Why do you want to go to the extreme of using ultrasonic devices, if simple chemistry will work?

  7. bundick

    Thread Starter Active Member

    Dec 19, 2007
    "Why do I want to go to extreme..."

    Ignorance! I didn't know that was extreme. When Chemists make these suggestions on the Algae site's they don't refer to one method or another as extreme. They did warn about using one solvent as it is a Carcinogen so I decided I'd look into electronics.
    I don't want to mess with the Still and solvents.

    I'm still shopping for a way to come up with clean burnable oil without using chemicals.

    As I understand lipids. (that's the Cell walls I was referring to) It's a little capsule resembling the Fish oil capsules you see in stores.
    So this Sonifacation is used to break the capsule wall down so the oil can escape.

    If we assume the Algae I'm using is; Botryococcus braunii
    (– This can produce long chain hydrocarbons representing 86% of its dry weight. The green alga Botryococcus is unique in the quality and quantity of the liquid hydrocarbons it produces. Some scientists consider the ancestors of Botryococcus to be responsible for many of the world's fossil fuel deposits.)

    Does this help to know what power and Frequency I'll need?
  8. jpanhalt


    Jan 18, 2008
    The name helped immensely. You are not dealing with phospholipids or glycerides at all. They are called "triterpenes," which is a very important distinction from the other vegetable oils that are used to make biodiesel.

    The hexane extraction you mention or steam distillation (?see below) would be my first choices for extraction. Note: hexane is just one of the lighter, low-octane components of gasoline. In the old octane scale, hexane was zero and iso-octane was 100, or something like that. It is no more carcinogenic than mineral spirits. In fact, light mineral spirits should work. As for what is a terpene, you have probably heard of turpentine. Terpenes are C10H16; triterpenes are C30Hxx. The number of hydrogens can vary with the number of double bonds. A lot of double bonds can also contribute to burning with a smokey flame (consider, for example, benzene, toluene, and xylene).

    I put a question mark on the use of steam distillation, because these triterpenes just may not have enough volatility at 100 °C to allow that to be a practical method. Steam distillation can certainly be used for mono- and di-terpenes. A quick search of the internet will give you that information. An advantage of steam distillation, if it will work, is that you will not have to dry the algae first. Thus, you save drying costs.

  9. bundick

    Thread Starter Active Member

    Dec 19, 2007
    This is sounding better all the time. You are making more sense than all that mouthwash on the Algae forum.

    As I under stand this Chemical process.
    I bring the fresh Botryococcus braunii out of the Water.
    Dry it good and Crush the Oil out of it.
    Mix the Cake with the Hexane.
    Seperate the oil, solids of the cake and the Hexane. (I dont know how this is done)
    Then filter the used Hexane mix to be re-used.
    The cake dross can be used in a number of places. I think there are people who buy it.

    The Steam process is a little different and sounds easier.
    I just dump the wet Algae in the pot and bring up the temp.
    What will boil off?
    Will it be the oil?
    Or will the unusable stuff boil off?

    I still want to know how I'd use Ultrasound to extract the oil.
    One of those three choices might not be an Engineer or Chemist's choice, but might suit my limited facilities.

    Dont abandon me. If we are using too much band width here. we can always email.
    I'm in the Middle of Alabama, GMT-6, if I'm close enough to visit, I'll buy the coffee!:)
  10. jpanhalt


    Jan 18, 2008
    Your recipe is close, but has a few errors, so let me multiquote and comment.

    At that point, you should have a mixture of a little water you didn't remove, crud that is neither soluble in water nor hexane, and "hexane." The "hexane" will be the top layer, if you let it sit (remember oil floats). The crud may be at the bottom or there may be some floating between the hexane layer and water layer. The hexane actually will have dissolved in it all of the hydrocarbon oil (the triterpene mentioned above) as well as some other oils that are not strictly hydrocarbons.

    If you have a way to filter it, most of the crud should be retained by the filter. You will then have a liquid that separates into two layers -- a little water layer (bottom) and hexane layer (top). The water layer may be cloudy. For the time being, forget about that.

    How you separate the hexane and water layers is up to you. A chemist would use a "separatory funnel." You could siphon the hexane off, decant it, scoop it off, or put a spigot in the bottom of your vat and drain the water off. The water is waste. The hexane layer has what you need.

    The cake of crude is probably high in protein. You might use it to make cookies. I wouldn't.

    To separate hexane from the oils you want for diesel requires distillation. That is where the meth cooker part comes in. The hexane will distill at a fairly low temperature (generally 50 to 70°C depending on whether you started with pure hexane (a waste of money) or petroleum ether (usually cheaper). The hexane can be recycled after it is distilled. The diesel oils will remain in the pot. You may need to filter them again and do other purification steps before using in your Mercedes :D

    That is essentially the process for steam distillation. It depends on the substance you want, which is usually insoluble or only slightly soluble in water, having a high enough vapor pressure ("volatility") at the boiling point of water so that it co-distills with water. I just did a quick lit search, and it does not appear that the triterpenes you want are volatile enough. If you do go ahead and try steam distillation, the stuff that distills over might have a smell that reminds you of a swamp.

    The ultrasound will facilitate (speed up) dissolving the oil in the algae. There is another technique called Soxhlet extraction that I would use. That way, a little hexane will go a long way.

    No problem. I like to talk chemistry whenever I get the chance.