x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Removing salt is key to process

To convert the salicornia plant into bioenergy, scientists at the Masdar Institute have to remove the salt it absorbs during irrigation.

To convert the salicornia plant into bioenergy, scientists at the Masdar Institute have to remove the salt it absorbs during irrigation.

Dr Mette Hedegaard Thomsen, an assistant professor in chemical engineering, said that the conversion process uses enzymes and microbes that do not tolerate a high content of salt.

"The first chemical analysis is now ready," she said. "Our findings are that the biomass contains 60 per cent sugar, which is good because this is what is used to make energy, and between 35 and 40 per cent salt."

After months of testing, the lab was able to reduce that salt percentage to just 6 per cent last week.

The treatment, involving water extraction, takes several hours but scientists are working on speeding up the process.