Mexico City, Sep 2 (EFE).- A group of Mexican scientists are working to make the best of the plague of sargassum that has been washing up on Mexican beaches over the past several months, aiming to turn the macroalgae into biofuel.
Over the past few days, scientists with the Renewable Energy Center at the Scientific Research Center of the Mexican state of Yucatan (CICY), as well as students from the Technological Institute of Higher Education of the city of Felipe Carrillo Puerto, have presented two projects aiming to produce biogas and biodiesel, respectively.
“We started collecting sargassum, a type of very complex macroalgae ,” Cuba’s Raul Tapia Tussell, who has a PhD in Food Sciences and Biotechnology, told EFE. “We looked at its make-up and we found out that it has high amounts of lignin, cellulose and hemicellulose.”
Tapia Tussell and the rest of the scientists at CICY devised a method whereby the algae is pre-treated with a type of fungus – which increases the production of biogas by 30 percent compared to other more traditional methods – and are looking to convert the algae into ethanol as well.
Both resulting biofuels may be used to power small vehicles, including those participating in the collection of sargassum.
The Technological Institute of Higher Education, on the other hand, recently presented a project that aims to obtain biodiesel from the seaweed.
The product – which was presented to government officials of the Caribbean state of Quintana Roo a few days ago – is a form of plant-based biodiesel that replaces the equivalent fossil fuel, but without producing CO2 and emitting between 40 and 60 percent as much soot.