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Suggesting a New Paradigm for Biodiesel Production! (UST-Korea Basic Science Institute(KBSI) Campus, Gi-cheol Cho)

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  • Registration Date : 2016-04-06


‘Trivial Question’ is a corner to introduce an USTian who improved UST’s status with an excellent thesis and research results. The first interviewee of the corner was our fellow student, Gi-cheol Cho of UST-KBSI Campus.

Last February, the Bioresource Technology, the world prominent academic journal in the area of bioenergy research, published Cho’s thesis on ‘Development of a technology reducing production cost of biodiese using harmful microalgae’. This research that greatly improved the quantitative and qualitative production of biodiesel attracted the attention of relevant industries, academic circles, and media.






First, please say a few words on your research contents.


Currently, the green algae ‘Dunaliella salina’ is used for biodiesel production. However, the cost is very high, accounting for more than 20 of the total production cost. My research deals with the method of increasing production, of biomass, which is the raw material of biodiesel, by mixing ‘Dunaliella salina’ with ‘Heterocapsa circularisquama’, the harmful microalgae that causes red tide. When they are cultured during mixing, the yield of microalgae increases by more than nine times. Also, the level of fatty acid, which decides the applicability of biodiesel, increases by more than five times, compared with a single cultivation. This indicates that we can produce good quality biodiesel through this technology, thus increasing the biofuel yield by 5.6 times and maximizing the production cost savings by 30.



Your research is receiving great attention from relevant academic circles and media. Please say a few words about it.

I did not expect that my thesis would receive such great attention by the time I ed it and ted it to the journal. However, my thesis was actually printed in a prestigious journal, and it was introduced to major newspapers, thus receiving great attention. It makes me happy. It looks like the efforts of many people who helped me, including my advising professor, finally bore fruit.



What made you start the research?

When I first started my course, I carried out an experiment on red tide. During the process of finding relevant experiment theses, I naturally came across theses on biotechnology using microalgae. Among them, I was particularly interested in the researches on the method of applying microalgae to biodiesel. Since then, I began experimenting on biomass application and concentration phenomenon using microalgae.




The core part of this technology is the mixed culturing of microalgae. How did you get the idea of condensing the microalgae using the nature of ‘Heterocapsa circularisquama’?

I usually did lots of experiments on harmful microalgae under the influence of my advisor, and I also had a high understanding of the toxicity of microalgae and   published relevant theses. Along the way, I got curious what will happen if I mix the green tide microalgae in my lab with the red tide microalgae. I thought that Dunaliella, which did not develop a cell wall well compared with other green algae, would be vulnerable to the toxicity. The result of the preliminary test showed that as expected, Dunaliella was deposited through the Heterocapsa circularisquama toxins, the red tide microalgae. After agonizing how I could apply this, I decided that I could enhance the production efficiency of biodiesel by applying it to the microalgae yielding method.



I heard that there was an episode caused by an all-night experiment during your research process.

During my research, I did not feel tired. I felt happy. But, during my all-night research, it was really difficult for me to stay awake. One time, I went to a barbershop to have my hair before attending the wedding ceremony of my friend after staying all-night in the lab. While the barber was trimming my hair, I nodded off  because I was too tired, and a big hole was accidentally created at a side of my hair. I had no option but to shave my whiskers, and I remember that I was greatly ridiculed by my friends at the wedding.






What are your future plans and hopes?

Currently, I am continuing my research on biodiesel using microalgae, particularly on the method of culturing microalgae using wastewater, as well as the method of obtaining a carbon source from wastes that influence the biodiesel production. In the future, I want to conduct researches on the transformation and manufacturing process of bio plastic and fiber using microalgae, in addition to the research on biodiesel. I also intend to use the results of my research for industrial purposes.



To conclude, please say a few words to readers.

I like the words, “Even if you are tired, do not give up and have passion!” But, I would like to say, “Live your life to the fullest and enjoy everything!” I think that if you enjoy your research, you can achieve many results like when you enjoy playing the games you like, you will become good at it before you even know it. I am confident that a brighter future starts from enjoying something. Everyone, please enjoy!