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
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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