Is Algae the Future of Biofuels?

Renewable energy — By on February 25, 2011 at 6:57 am

Rising gas prices – said to soon hit $4/gallon here in the U.S. – have people talking again about biofuels and biodiesel.  The idea of growing our own gas is generally thought to be a good alternative, until people start worrying about the impact of taking corn, soybeans and other crops that would otherwise be used for food and putting them into our gas tanks.

Algae2 Is Algae the Future of Biofuels?

Algae as biofuel

But wait a minute!  Is algae the future of biofuels instead?

There are many positive attributes of the green seaweed organisms, including the fact that it is much cheaper to harvest than traditional crops.  In fact, researchers at the Rochester Institute of Technology believe that algae is the “wave of the future” when it comes to biodiesel!

When algae is used as a source of fuel, it can replace the use of diesel by 50%.  The green organisms can be turned into green fuel using technology developed by Environmental Energy Technologies, which use a single-cell algae to make biodiesel.  The team is currently (forgive the pun) pumping out a new batch of algae each week to create 100 gallons that can be turned into biofuel.

Their algae production is set to be increased 10-fold by this spring, further underscoring the efficient, cost-effective superiority of algae over corn or soybean production.

I’m all for the green fuel.  What do you think about using algae as biodiesel?

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1 Comment

  1. Dr.A.Jagadeesh says:

    Yes. AGood post on Algae.

    Algae are tiny biological factories that use photosynthesis to transform carbon dioxide and sunlight into energy so efficiently that they can double their weight several times a day.

    As part of the photosynthesis process algae produce oil and can generate 15 times more oil per acre than other plants used for biofuels, such as corn and switchgrass. Algae can grow in salt water, freshwater or even contaminated water, at sea or in ponds, and on land not suitable for food production.

    On top of those advantages, algae — at least in theory — should grow even better when fed extra carbon dioxide (the main greenhouse gas) and organic material like sewage. If so, algae could produce biofuel while cleaning up other problems.

    Among algal fuels’ attractive characteristics: they do not affect fresh water resources, can be produced using ocean and wastewater, and are biodegradable and relatively harmless to the environment if spilled. Algae cost more per unit mass (as of 2010, food grade algae costs ~$5000/tonne), due to high capital and operating costs, yet are claimed to yield between 10 and 100 times more energy per unit area than other second-generation biofuel crops. One biofuels company has claimed that algae can produce more oil in an area the size of a two car garage than a football field of soybeans, because almost the entire algal organism can use sunlight to produce lipids, or oil. The United States Department of Energy estimates that if algae fuel replaced all the petroleum fuel in the United States, it would require 15,000 square miles (39,000 km2) which is only 0.42% of the U.S. map. This is less than 1⁄7 the area of corn harvested in the United States in 2000. However, these claims remain unrealized, commercially. According to the head of the Algal Biomass Organization algae fuel can reach price parity with oil in 2018 if granted production tax credits.

    Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India
    E-mail: anumakonda.jagadeesh@gmail.com

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