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Moving ahead with micro-algae to energy at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU)

May 2015 News

Innovative technology under development at NMMU’s InnoVenton Institute of Chemical Technology could turn millions of tons of waste coal dust into export quality coal.

“If you mix coal dust and algae biomass, the algae collects on the surface of the coal and binds the dust together,” says InnoVenton’s Prof. Ben Zeelie. “The result is a coal-algae composite – Coalgae. Coalgae may be used as a substitute for coal in various processes, or may be further processed to a bio-fossil crude oil blend and synthetic gas. These may be converted into a variety of fuels, including gasoline, diesel, kerosene, aviation fuel, and heavy fuel oil.”

Carbon sequestration, the upgrading of low quality coal and the production of clean water are among the spin-off advantages of the production of Coalgae.

Consulting engineering firm Hatch-Goba recently completed a basic study on the technology for production on a 1 hectare scale. While this is not an economically viable scale, it will enable demonstration of the technology to interested companies and potential investors.

The project was publicly demonstrated for the first time in early 2014. Aspects of Coalgae technology demonstrated included the cultivation of micro-algae in the photo-bioreactor system developed by NMMU, the use of coal-generated flue gas to meet the micro-algae’s need for carbon dioxide, the harvesting of the micro-algae and the production of the coal-micro-algae composites.

In February 2015, the technology won the award for ‘The innovation most likely to impact public procurement’ at the Innovation Bridge technology match-making event held in Pretoria. There are five separate patent applications associated with the technology and commercialisation discussions are underway with various industrial partners.

For more information contact Wilma Maritz, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, +27 (0)41 504 4309, wilma.maritz2@nmmu.ac.za, www.techtransfer.nmmu.ac.za





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