A new study could see power stations producing their own biofuel.

Chemical and Biomolecular Engineers from the Melbourne School of Engineering have discovered a new way to deliver carbon dioxide to microalgae, which in turn, can be harvested to make renewable fuels such as biodiesel.

Carbon dioxide can speed up the growth of microalgae, but it has to be free of contamination or the algae die.

The new method purifies the carbon dioxide from power station flue gases by absorbing it into a liquid, which is then pumped through hollow fibre membranes.

The engineers say these hollow fibre membranes act like very long drinking straws, which can be immersed into the microalgae beds.

Lead researcher Professor Sandra Kentish says that supplying purified carbon dioxide by extracting it from flue gases can work, but it is expensive and takes a lot of energy.

“In this work, we have found a way to purify the carbon dioxide and to supply it to the microalgae for a much more moderate cost and using a lot less energy,” Professor Kentish said.

"The CO2 moves directly from the liquid into the microalgae culture by permeating through the fibre walls. Aside from being a cheaper approach, our research has shown that the microalgae grow faster than in other work done to date,” said another team member, Dr Greg Martin.

They say other products such as chemicals, proteins and nutraceuticals can also be produced using the same approach.

The research team is now undertaking further experiments to find the optimum liquid composition.

THe study has been published in the journal Energy and Environmental Science.