Isuzu Motors Ltd and Euglena Co Ltd announced June 25, 2014, that they have launched a joint research project aimed at commercializing an euglena (microalga)-derived next-generation biodiesel fuel.
Euglena is a Tokyo-based biotechnology venture spun off from the University of Tokyo. Like other biodiesel fuels, Euglena's existing euglena-derived biodiesel fuel is used by mixing it with 19 times as much light oil. On the other hand, because the next-generation biodiesel fuel to be developed by the two companies will have the same molecular structure as light oil, it can technically be used as a fuel as it is, said Mitsuru Izumo, president of Euglena. The companies plan to have prospects for success by 2018.
The existing biodiesel fuel is made by extracting an oil material (wax ester) from powdered euglena and removing glycerin from it to obtain "Euglena Fame," a liquid whose physical properties are similar to those of light oil. However, when Euglena Fame is mixed with light oil, it cannot constitute more than 5% of the mixed liquid. It is because, when the ratio of Euglena Fame increases, it lowers oxidation stability, increases viscosity and generates sludge.
On the other hand, the next-generation biodiesel fuel will be made by applying a hydrogen treatment technology (a desulfurization technology that adds a catalyst to a material to make it react with hydrogen) that is used for normal oil refinery. The fuel refined with this technology will meet the standards of light oil, Izumo said.