While working to eliminate plastic from the waters and beaches of the Caribbean and Central America, a team of researchers in the United Kingdom made an unusual discovery: they discovered a technique to turn seaweed into biofuel and fertiliser, which they plan to use in their studies. Every year, millions of tonnes of decaying seaweed wash up on the shores of the Caribbean, Mexico, and other destinations throughout the world.
Meanwhile in the Americas, foul-smelling sargassum seaweed fueled in part by agricultural fertilisers that drain into the sea is wreaking havoc on the tourism sector, causing fisheries to suffer, and having a negative influence on ocean ecosystems. Furthermore, the pre-processing of seaweed before it is converted into bulk chemicals and fuels is a low-cost and straightforward procedure. In order to obtain biofuels that are economically feasible.
The processing of marine biomass such as seaweed, on the other hand, is time-consuming. It entails removing it from salt water, cleaning it with fresh water, and then drying it completely. This can result in significant financial losses. As a result, the process must be financially feasible and self-sustaining – both economically and ecologically – in order to be considered successful.
In addition, the discovery fills a fundamental gap in the process, establishing itself as the first fractionation step in a real salt-based Marine Biorefinery system.
Apparatus identical to that used in the production of palm oil substitute was employed.
It was necessary to create a procedure that used acidic and basic catalysts to release sugar to feed yeast that makes a palm oil alternative. Aside from that, the same approach was used to prepare remaining seaweed for the next step of processing, which was called hydrothermal liquefaction.
When it comes to the method, it entails exposing organic materials to high temperatures and pressures in order to transform seaweed into bio-oil. This bio-oil may be refined further to produce fuels and high-quality low-cost fertiliser at a low cost.
“However, when compared to existing pre-treatment options, a purely salt-based biochemical conversion approach demonstrates that the former can be effective,” said the first author of the report describing the discovery from the University of Bath.