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Production of bioethanol from brackish algae chaetomorpha sp. in mekong delta region

Update 03/05/2017 - 08:04:19 AM (GMT+7)

State level project, funded by Ministry of Industry and Trade; finished April 2017 


Project director: Assoc. Prof. Dr. Hoang Kim Anh

STU FFT’s Project members: 

  • Nguyen Minh Hai, MSc
  • Nguyen Thanh Sang, MSc
  • Tran Ngoc Hieu, MSc
  • Nguyen Minh Nhut, student 

Implementing organizations:

  • Saigon Technology University (STU)
  • Ho Chi Minh City University of Food Industry (HUFI)
  • Institute of Tropical Biology (ITB)

The project has published 10 articles in domestic and foreign scientific journals and conferences; The project also participated in training 3 PhDs, 2 MSc and many students in Food Technology

1. General introduction 
The productions of first generation fuels from agricultural products have been studied for long time in the western countries, with corn as raw materials in the U.S. and Europe. Many projects are being implemented to produce biofuels of second generation from ligno-cellulosic agricultural materials. In Vietnam, since 2005 several companies have announced their intent to begin producing ethanol from terrestrial feedstocks including tapioca, jatropha, cassava, sugarcane, and rice husks.  

Seaweed that grows very fast is capable of use as human food and raw materials for industry. In addition, seaweed is also capable of handling environmental pollution by absorbing CO2 in photosynthesis process to produce biomass; therefore will help protect the environment and reduce greenhouse gas. In the past, aquatic plants such as seaweed have never been seriously considered in the use as raw materials for biofuels production. Recently, many different projects began to be implemented for studying of using aquatic plants to produce biofuels.

Chaetomorpha sp. is a filamentous green algae (Chlorophyta). This type of algae is found commonly in extensive brackish water shrimp ponds and canals in the Mekong Delta region. The presence of moderate density of this algae will help improve the water environment, increase productivity and quality of farmed shrimp. Currently, this potential source of biomass is wasted and has not been used effectively. Only a small amount of algae biomass is used as fertilizer; a large amount of algae biomass was taken out by farmers and left to rot on the shore, wasting and polluting the environment. Therefore, the research to convert algae into valuable products is a new and promising way to use this sustainable biomass source.

Algae biomass is considered a source of raw materials for third generation biofuel production. Using algae to produce ethanol without compromising food security is a problem when using first-generation starch-containing materials. Unlike ligno-cellulose biomass of the 2nd generation, which often has high lignin content, algae biomass almost does not contain lignin, therefore no pretreatment or mild treatment is required. Therefore, the process to convert algae biomass into ethanol will be much simpler and easier than that of ligno-cellulose biomass.

As reported by recent publications, bioconversion of lignocellulosic plant material into fuel ethanol is technically feasible. Unfortunately, production costs are estimated to be two to three times higher than for corn ethanol. Our approach for solving this problem is to convert low-cost low-lignin algae biomass not only to fuel ethanol but to other valuable co-products. Brackish algae are rich in protein with balanced amino acid profile. Isolated algae protein can be used as good protein source for food and feed products. Furthermore, residual material following ethanol fermentation can be used for microbial fertilizer, thus ensuring minimal waste and a closed-loop biomass value chain.

2. Objectives of the project:
According to the project plan, the main objectives of the project include:

  1. To develop quality standards for a sustainable source of algae biomass as raw material inputs for production of biofuels
  2. To convert algae biomass into fuel ethanol and other valuable products in laboratory and pilot scales. 

3. The main results of the project:

Research topic 1: Evaluated raw material source of brackish algae Chaetomorpha sp. in the Mekong Delta region and proposed a plan to collect and preliminarily process biomass for ethanol production.



Research topic 2: Proposed technology and model system of equipment to produce fuel ethanol from brackish algae Chaetomorpha sp. "The process of bioethanol production from algae biomass by improved fermentation method" has been granted "Useful solution" by the National Office of Intellectual Property – Ministry of Science and Technology.


Patent/ Useful solution

Research topic 3: Researched on the technology and proposed a model of equipment for producing biofertilizer from the by-products of ethanol production.

Production of bio-fertilizer from algae biomass and by-products of ethanol fermentation


Research topic 4: Designed, installed and tested the production line of fuel ethanol from brackish algae Chaetomorpha sp. at a pilot capacity of 20 liters/day, converted to 100% ethanol.





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