Affiliate Professor Akshat Tanksale from Monash College talks to AZoCleantech about his analysis on how microalgae may have vital advantages when utilized to the hydrogen manufacturing business.
What motivated your analysis into microalgae as a clear vitality supply to create hydrogen and methane?
Microalgae as a feedstock is attractive due to its high carbon dioxide fixation efficiency, growth rate, photosynthetic efficiency, ability to grow in brackish water – such as rivers and lakes – and the ability to cultivate it on land that is not suitable for agriculture.
What makes microalgae an acceptable useful resource that might revolutionize hydrogen manufacturing?
Unlike agriculture or forestry-based biomass, microalgae is more suitable for industrial-scale production for energy generation. It is easier to convert into hydrogen since it is made of a simpler cellular structure.
The present finest follow for the manufacturing of hydrogen is the steam reforming of methane. What strategies did you employ in your analysis and the way do they evaluate to steam reforming?
We use a method that is similar to steam reforming. In our method, the microalgae first goes through fast pyrolysis (thermal decomposition) to produce volatile bio-oil, which is immediately converted into hydrogen by steam reforming. There are dozens of chemical reactions in our process compared to only a couple of reactions in the steam reforming of methane. The beauty of our method is that all the reactions take place in a matter of microseconds. This is achieved by a novel catalyst that was designed specifically for microalgae conversion.
How may this analysis stimulate the cultivation of microalgae in rural communities? What advantages will it have?
This research could provide high revenue for microalgae growers. Until now, microalgae cultivation has been limited for energy products since the main route for conversion has been biodiesel production, which has low value and market acceptability. However, hydrogen is widely considered as the future fuel for large-scale commercial operations.
Using microalgae to supply hydrogen emits 36% much less greenhouse fuel emissions than present strategies, with the potential of this determine rising to 87% with the incorporation of extra renewable vitality processes. Picture Credit score: Chokniti Khongchum / Shutterstock.com
Would utilizing microalgae to make hydrogen be an costly course of? Might this know-how be adopted on a a lot bigger scale?
Our techno-economic model suggests that at $10/kg compressed hydrogen (at 700 bar pressure), the payback period for hydrogen production at a scale of ~30 tons per day is only 3.78 years with a 22% return on investment. Therefore, it is viable for a large-scale operation.
What potential optimistic environmental advantages might be gained from utilizing microalgae to supply hydrogen?
Hydrogen production from microalgae using Reactive Flash Volatilisation produces 36% less greenhouse gas emissions compared to the steam reforming of methane gas – the current best practice for hydrogen production. With additional renewable energy processes such as hydroelectricity being integrated into our hydrogen production process, carbon emissions could drop by as much as 87%.
Why is that this analysis necessary to the broader hydrogen manufacturing business and to addressing present considerations about local weather change?
Hydrogen production via renewable resources is essential to solve the energy crisis and bring down the global emissions from fossil fuels. Currently, a vast majority of hydrogen comes from fossil fuels, which causes carbon dioxide emissions, leading to climate change. Hydrogen production via microalgae is potentially carbon neutral.
What challenges have you ever encountered in your analysis and what challenges are you prone to encounter if this know-how is deployed in business? How will these issues be overcome?
One of the challenges that must be overcome is the scaleup and commercialization of microalgae production processes. Photobioreactor advancements are being made to produce microalgae in high concentration and low footprint. However, they are not yet at a stage where they can be applied to energy applications due to the sheer size of energy demand.
Why is hydrogen an necessary future vitality supply? How does this analysis challenge match into that?
Hydrogen is a clean-burning fuel that only produces water vapor as a byproduct of converting hydrogen into energy. Microalgae use this water (and CO2 from the atmosphere) for their growth. Therefore, this process closes the carbon and hydrogen loop and is therefore highly sustainable.
What are the following steps of the challenge?
The next steps of the project are to test this process on a pilot scale and to conduct long-term studies on the hydrogen yield of microalgae and to connect it to renewable electricity to power the hydrogen compression for storage.
Where can readers find more information?
About Akshat Tanskale
Associate Professor Akshat Tanskale is the Group Leader of the Catalysis for Green Chemistry group in the Department of Chemical Engineering at Monash University. He obtained a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from the National Institute of Technology (Raipur, 2001), then decided to pursue an academic career. He obtained a doctorate in hydrogen production from biomass at the University of Queensland (UQ) in 2008. During this time he studied nanomaterials and the engineering of chemical reactions. Since then, he has been working on hydrogen energy. Assistant Professor Tanksale did a post-doctorate at UQ on the conversion of biomass into liquid fuels and chemicals, as well as on the storage of hydrogen.
A / Prof Tanksale believes that novel process innovation and the design of novel heterogeneous catalysts at the nanoscale are key to the development of alternative low carbon fuels and chemicals. He joined Monash University as a lecturer in 2011 to start his own research group and started a new research direction in the field of syngas and CO2 conversion, in addition to the conversion of biomass.
New catalysts developed in his group allow selective conversion of CO2 and biomass, providing faster reaction kinetics and higher product yield. He was most recently appointed responsible for the Carbon Capture, Conversion and Use Theme of the Woodside Monash Energy Partnership. Woodside Energy and Monash University are jointly investing more than $ 40 million over seven years in this partnership with three main themes: 1) new energy technologies, 2) carbon capture, conversion and use, and 3) energy leadership.
A / Prof Tanksale leads several projects focused on hydrogen production and the use of CO2 as a raw material for the manufacture of chemicals and fuels, thus reducing net CO2 emissions into the atmosphere.
Current projects in the research group:
- Hydrogen production from biomass (wood, wheat straw, bagasse, algae)
- Production of formaldehyde and derivatives by direct hydrogenation of CO and CO2
- Catalytic conversion of waste biomass into value added chemicals such as furfural, levulinic acid, hydroxymethyl furfural
- Depolymerization of waste super absorbent polymers into monomers / oligomers for the circular economy
- Direct CO2 hydrogenation into gaseous and liquid fuels
- Dry reforming of methane in an induction heated reactor
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