A Carbon-Neutral Dream — Algae ?

Algae is much more than just the green gunk that accumulates inside a fish tank. Algae are amazing organisms that can use photosynthesis to convert carbon dioxide and sunshine into energy. Algae are so good at this that they have the potential to double their weight many times in a single day. A team of researchers at the University of Virginia Department of Environmental Engineering will use an Energy Seed Grant to determine just how promising algae biofuel production is. The team will change the levels of carbon dioxide and organic substances and record the differences in algae oil production. Read more about Biofuel From Algae Market Potential

As a by-product of photosynthesis, algae produce oil. In fact, algae can create at least ten times more oil per acre than any other plant used as a source of biofuels, like switchgrass or corn. Algae is remarkably flexible, too, since it can grow in fresh or salt water, or even dirty water, and on land that isn’t arable.

If that were not enough, algae theoretically should grow better when they are fed more carbon dioxide and organic substances like sewage. If that turns out to be true, then algae will not only produce biofuel very efficiently, it will also clean up other waste problems at the same time.

The use of algae for fuel production isn’t new. In fact, the idea has been talked about for over 50 years. While some research was conducted by the U.S. Department of Energy from the late 1970s to the mid 1990s, the research did not vary the nutritional inputs to the algae colonies. This “hands off” approach resulted in low oil yields. The team in Virginia believes that feeding the algae more organic matter and carbon dioxide will allow the algae to produce as much as 40% of its weight in oil.

High fossil fuel prices and public wariness about using food crops for biofuel are two of the main reasons that interest in algae remains high. Not only could algae create biofuel, it could also make vegetable oil, biogasoline, or biobutanol. Though algae costs more by weight than other biofuel crops, it can create 30 times more energy per unit, making the increased cost up front dwindle by comparison. To grow an acre of soybeans’ worth of oil is hypothesized to only take up something like 400 square feet of algae. If algae biofuel were to replace all the petroleum that’s used in the U.S., it would require 15,000 square miles. It would take more than 105,000 square miles to grow enough corn to do the same thing – a sevenfold difference.

The experiments that have been done so far with large open ponds of algae have shown that up to 99% of the carbon dioxide in the solution can be converted to energy. However, algae doesn’t reduce levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, because it is returned to the air when algae biofuels are consumed.

Read More: http://energybusinessdaily.com/renewables/algae-biofuels-a-carbon-neutral-dream-come-true/

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One Response

  1. But 15000 square miles itself pretty large and if it has to be arable or even semi arable ……..It is not possible without affecting food crops.The idea of growing in house walls is an interesting concept. But it is essentially small scale and ideally suited for developing countries with large population.

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