News 323 views last update:6 Aug 2012

Omega-3 from biodiesel byproduct

Zhiyou Wen from Virginia Tech's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences discovered a way to grow omega-3 fatty acids by using a biodiesel byproduct.

"High energy prices have led to an increase in biodiesel production, which in turn has led to an increase in the amount of crude glycerol in the market," Wen said. "We have shown that it is possible to use the crude glycerol byproduct from the biodiesel industry as a carbon source for microalgae that produce omega-3 fatty acids. After thorough chemical analysis, we have also shown that the algae biomass composition has the same quality as the commercial algae product," said Wen, who added that the impurities in crude glycerol may actually be beneficial to algal growth.

Use as animal feed
The researcher said that after growing the algae in the crude glycerol, it could be used as an animal feed. That would mimic a process in nature in which fish, the most common source of omega-3 fatty acid for humans, eat the algae and then retain the healthful compounds in their bodies, he added. "The results so far have been promising. The fish fed the algae had significant amounts of omega-3 fatty acids," Wen said. He and his colleagues are also trying to see whether the algae would work as a chicken feed, and to determine the fate of omega 3s after they enter the food supply.

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Virginia Tech's College    

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Dossier AllAbout Bio Energy   

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