TaylorAnn Christensen, Dixie State University
Alternatives to fossil fuels is a vast field of opportunity that is still being optimized. In the area of biofuels, organisms such as algae and bacteria that are used for the production of biofuels often die as a result of accumulating hydrocarbons on the cell membrane. The solution to this problem could lie in the use of ionic liquids (ILs), which could serve as a way to collect the hydrocarbons being produced without disturbing the cells, and in turn allow for a continuous extraction process. Hydrocarbon-based biofuels produced by bacterial cells in an aqueous solution can be extracted with water-immiscible ionic liquids. The ionic liquid-biofuel mixture is separated from the cell-containing aqueous solution for isolation of the hydrocarbons. The ionic liquids themselves are “green” in that they can be recycled, mostly due to the fact the structure of the IL is unchanged following extraction and can easily be recovered for further extraction cycles. The ionic liquids are optimized to be non-toxic to the biofuel-producing organisms, and to maximize their solvation properties of hydrocarbons. The main structural properties contained within these new ionic liquids include organic cations to increase hydrocarbon solubility, and anions to improve water immiscibility. The successful production of ionic liquids that have hydrocarbon carrying capacity and non-toxic cellular activity would be a major breakthrough in the cost effectiveness of biofuel production.