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Qatar University provides first update on R&D on sustainable aviation biofuels; scaling up production

26 November 2012

The Peninsula. Qatar University (QU) provided the first public update on the progress of its work on developing sustainable alternative biofuels for aviation on the eve of the UN Climate Change Conference COP-18.

The university’s state-backed QR45.5-million (US$12.5 million) biofuel project, in collaboration with Qatar Airways and Qatar Science and Technology Park (QSTP), is now in its third year.

The research team has isolated multiple forms of single-celled photosynthetic organisms (cyanobacteria and microalgae) abundant in the waters of Qatar and which grow well in the extreme heat, strong sunlight and high salinity waters of Qatar.

The research group grew these cultures, eliminating weaker variations, and scaled up growth from small test-tubes to water tanks to monitor their growth. Lipids are extracted for renewable aviation fuel, while carbohydrates are used to make bioethanol.

The team then scaled up their tests to outdoor tanks of 1,500 liters at QU’s research farm in Al Khor. The experiment is now being scaled up even further to 25,000 liters, using specially-designed outdoor research ponds currently being prepared by the team.

If successful, a pre-commercialization pilot plant will be constructed on a much larger scale of 1.5-million liters.

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