Sustainable Green Lubricants from Microalgae

  Algae Europe December 2022
green lubricants

Recent research published in the journal Molecules: Microalgae Biomass as a New Potential Source of Sustainable Green Lubricants. Image Credit: Perception7/

by Reginald Davey

Lubricants can either be solid, liquid, semi-solid, or gaseous in form. Functionally, they form layers between two surfaces to separate them and provide some degree of protection. However, most lubricants are produced from oil, coal, and natural gas, which presents problems with sustainability and eco-friendliness in their manufacturing and use.

To address this, green lubricants have been widely proposed, investigated, and developed by scientists around the world. These lubricants have higher biodegradation rates than conventional mineral and synthetic oils, and promising sources for green lubricants include coconuts, sunflowers, rapeseed, soybeans, castor oil, as well as inedible crops such as neem and Callophyllum innophylum.

An alternative production route for green lubricants has been explored by a group of scientists in Mexico in a new study published in the journal Molecules. Rather than using vegetable oil, which uses up valuable food resources, the team investigated the use of microalgae biomass to produce ecologically friendly and sustainable bio-lubricants.

As bio-lubricants and biofuels share the same chemical origins (fatty acid esters) existing studies on microalgae-derived biofuels could prove useful for bio-lubricant production. However, as the desired properties for each are different, the research has stated that a variety of chemical treatments are needed to obtain bio-lubricants with the required performance. A second transesterification process or other conversion processes can obtain the necessary properties.

The review presented in Molecules has four main purposes. First, it reviews and discusses current attempts and progress in technologies for microalgal biorefinery processes and methods of developing bio-lubricants for several industrial processes. Second, prospective microalgal strains are identified and examined with respect to their abilities for lipid accumulation, their fatty acid profiles, and their feasibility for industrial-scale production.

Third, the main chemical modifications which enhance the properties of lubricants produced from microalgae are investigated by the authors.

Finally, the review presents a guide for the reader to select appropriate microalgae oils and chemical modifications for further research and development of microalgae bio-lubricants for specific industrial processes.

This study makes a significant contribution to the field and can be used as a basis for the future development of sustainable green lubricants.

Source: AZO Materials

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