Alternative Energy

Alternative Energy

Alternative energy news, and information about renewable energy technologies.

Sep 10

Algae Biofuels Of The Future

Posted in Biofuels | Energy Inventions

Algae Biofuel Algae fix the sunlight and carbon dioxide into energy and that too very fast. Scientists want to utilize this quality for alternative fuels. And when it comes to greener alternatives to fossil fuel what could be greener than pond scum? Why algae are more suitable over other bio-fuels? Algae can grow anywhere, practically anywhere. They can grow in sea-water or salty water or adulterated water or even in sewage. They can bear extreme temperature. They can grow on waste-land. Another good thing about algae is they multiply very fast. They can double their weight many times in a single day. Algae produce oil as a byproduct of photosynthesis. They can produce fifteen times more oil per acre than other plants such as corn and switchgrass.

If we want to single out the biggest two advantages of algae as bio-fuels, the first one can be these plants grow well where carbon dioxide is in excess and another is these plants can grow in sewages.

“We have to prove these two things to show that we really are getting a free lunch,” said Lisa Colosi, a professor of civil and environmental engineering who is part of an interdisciplinary University of Virginia research team, recently funded by a new U.Va. Collaborative Sustainable Energy Seed Grant worth about $30,000.

If we let the algae grow naturally then the oil yield will be low, around one percent by the weight of the algae. The U.Va. team theorizes that if more carbon dioxide and organic material would be available to the algae, oil yield can be increased to as much as 40 percent by weight.

Keeping in mind the quality of algae that it grows well on industrial solids and where carbon dioxide is available in excess, it can be helpful in dealing with industrial solids. Cleaning industrial solids is very expensive otherwise. Algae can also be used to minimize the emissions of carbon dioxide of coal plants.

Research partner Mark White, a professor at the McIntire School of Commerce, will help the team quantify the big-picture environmental and economic benefits of algae biofuel compared to soy-based biodiesel, under different sets of assumptions.

The third team member, Andres Clarens, a professor of civil and environmental engineering has expertise in separating the oil produced by the algae. They will try to extract oil from algae on a very small scale. Later on they will tackle the basic issues like whether it makes a difference to grind up the organic material before feeding it to the algae.

  • Jay

    This technology is something that is worth putting time into. There was a special on the History Channel on this matter, about a month ago and it was fascinating in a sense. Taking something that otherwise would go up into the atmosphere and further lead to excess CO2 in the air, and then taking that and using it to feed algae (which in turn is used to produce this biofuel) is absolutely amazing.

  • Dr. Seetharam Annadana

    I believe Algal Biodiesel has a tremendous future. We should however do a LCA to ensure that it is sustainable. It would make a lot of sense in researching the option to ensure it is not water intensive. It is also necessary to study the impacts of open and contained structures for the production of such unicellular organisms.

    Dr. Seetharam Annadana
    Bangalore, India

  • Abhi

    I along with other students are working on this energy source. This source is extremely efficient. We think of teaming up ethanol as primary and dampener method as backup fuel for vehicles. The problem is that though these methods are very productive it will be difficult for people to switch fuels when more than scores of vehicles are being made everyday that use petrol and diesel.

  • Michel

    I think algae biodiesel is a great thing and will be a huge benefit to the environment.

  • Roger Bird

    The problem with the morons on the far left (Mark Udall, Nancy Pelosi, et. al.) is that we cannot convert to clean and renewable energy if our economy is in the toilet. We cannot afford it. If the oil companies think that they can make a buck out of drilling, let them. It will still not bring down the price of gasoline enough to end our current rush to renewables.

    The problem with the morons on the far right (Rush Limbaugh, et. al.) is that we NEED to convert to clean and renewable energy, no matter how much oil is left. Because (1) petroleum is dirty as heck, and (2) is it limited, no matter how much may still be there.

  • Roger Bird

    Oh, and I forgot, we are getting most of that oil by sending our money to people who hate us and who have no respect for the intrinsic worth of human beings.

  • Eujal

    Algae biofuels are a big revolution since it can be easily produced under any extreme conditions. This alternative source of fuel could very well compensate for fossil fuels as it can be produced in huge mass around the globe from sea water to any arid and harsh conditions.

    Advantages include that it produces less amount of pollution and can be easily produced. This alternative source of fuel should be researched further and should be quickly adopted to minimize increasing fuel crises and global warming.

  • Eujal Nathan

    Algae biofuels are a big revolution since it can be easily produced under any extreme conditions.This alternative should be researched further and should be quickly adopted to minimize increasing fuel crises and global warming.

  • melissa

    Algae biofuels seem to be an efficient alternative but like many other organic systems they are prone to disease, cannot be stored for long periods without degradation which means transport of this material later becomes a problem.What about fermentation this process forms a CO2 by product which is a major greenhouse gas is it a problem to be faced.Problems like these must be brought to a controlled minimal if not eradicated entirely if biofuels are to be looked at as a sole fuel source.Until then i can see no choice but to use fossil fuels as our major energy provider

  • Pradeep

    I did a basic process economic analysis of algal oil production from cement plant-co2 capture. I find that a doubling of algal yields and/or a doubling of oil prices are required to make this process economically justifiable. Interestingly, CO2 offset prices play only a minor role in the overall economics.

  • R.Palaneeswar

    My suggestion is that by working with chemoautotrophs for biofuel generation, competition for water and space could be sorted out and even it might find a way for environmental cleaning.

  • Andrew J. Blair

    My thesis is on Biodiesel Technology Roadmapping. I will be pleased to share it with you once it is published.


  • hariom

    if bi product of algae is co2 then why not we utilize the same to increase its production

  • Peter

    All these alternatives are great, but every ecological and social problem boils down to this : Too Many People for this planet. Let’s all stop breeding so madly for a few generations and enjoy our 1960’s muscle cars again without feeling guilty…

  • Madiha

    I think bio fuels should definitely become the fuel of the future however there is one disadvantage to it: water is required for the algae to grow and live in. This is not possible for countries who already face shortage of water and are in a drought.

  • Spencer Bell

    With regard to water use in production, waste water can be used. It does not taint the end product. this is a even more sustainable way to use this biofuel.

  • Spencer Bell

    Oh and by the way if anyone was wondering, the government researched this from 1978 to 1996, then suddenly stopped.

  • fruvy

    Quite interesting and very promising . Bio fuels from algae. Is there a specific type of algae for producing bio-fuels? Can this algae be grown inland which sea water is being pumped in? I was just thinking aloud of utilizing an abandoned non-productive ex-prawn production farm for culture of this said algae as grow-out test farm.

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