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Study demonstrates production of low cost biodiesel using crude glycerol.

In the present time, with increasing demand for transportation fuels coupled with declining reserves of crude oil, scientific communities are forced to focus on renewable fuels. Although biofuels obtained from energy crops such as food and non-food energy crops act as renewable fuels, various issues such as food versus fuel debate, biodiversity loss and their effect on the land has shifted the idea of energy production towards other alternative biofuel producers like waste materials and microorganisms. Using these alternative energy resources are also debatable, due to their inability to satisfy the demand for petroleum-based fuels and due to the relatively high production cost and slower rate of production of the biodiesel. In order to overcome the cost related to biodiesel production, researchers from IIT Roorkee, for the first time, have investigated the use of crude glycerol (CG), for heterotrophic cultivation of a of microalgae (namely Chorella sp.) in  a Photo Bioreactor (PBR) to enhance biodiesel production. In heterotrophic cultivation system, a light source is not provided to the cells and the balance between oxygen and carbon dioxide is automatically adjusted with PBR. The study found that the quantity of biodiesel obtained was nearly two times more (446.50 ± 1.50mg L-1 day-1 ) than that produced from other methods. On evaluation, the quality of biodiesel produced was found to be of automotive quality which would ensure smooth running of an engine, improve cold start behaviour , reduced white smoke and ensure a longer shelf life, making it it is perfectly suitable for vehicular use. The researchers suggested that by recycling of CG for cultivation of micro algae, enhanced quality and quantity  of biodiesel can be produced at a low cost. The study has contributed to sustainable and low cost production process of biodiesels, and on implementation, could help satisfy the high demand for transportation fuels in the present time by overcoming the relatively high production cost of biofuels.