"We are a giant solar collecting system. We get the bulk of our energy from the sunshine," said Kertz. Algae are among the fastest growing plants in the world, and about 50 percent of their weight is oil. That lipid oil can be used to make biodiesel for cars, trucks, and airplanes. Most people know algae as "pond scum."
Editor's Note: This occasional series looks at powerful ideas — some existing, some futuristic — for fueling and electrifying modern life. Algae come in all sizes and shapes: from single-celled microbes in pond scum to 100-foot-long seaweeds in kelp forests . They can live in salty, fresh and even waste water. The speed at which algae grow can overwhelm marine habitats and fish tanks, but that same productivity could make these organisms the best choice for supplying biofuels. Attracted by this potential, researchers and entrepreneurs are trying to reduce the costs of current harvesting methods. The relation between algae and fuel actually goes back millions of years.
The algae with which we are concerned are microscopic plants referred to as green algae found in all aquatic environments, including marine, freshwater and brackish water. Green algae (singular: green alga) are the large group of algae from which the embryophytes (higher plants) emerged. As such, they form a paraphyletic group, variously included among the Plantae or with the Protista. The green algae include unicellular and colonial flagellates, usually but not always with two flagella per cell, as well as various colonial, coccoid, and filamentous forms.
Biofuels have been one of the most talked about renewable fuel sources over the past decade. The world is now attempting to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels, which create a significant amount of pollution and otherwise harm the environment. As a result, bio fuels such as algae biodiesel , which generate less Carbon Dioxide while being burned, may be able to garner widespread support.
Airlines won the backing of a U.S.- based technical-standards group to power their planes with a blend of traditional fuel and biofuel from inedible plants, the Air Transport Association said today. Fuel processed from organic waste or non-food materials, such as algae or wood chips, may comprise as much as 50 percent of the total fuel burned to power passenger flights, ATA spokesman Steve Lott and a Boeing Co. (BA) official told Bloomberg.
Tiny algae is ready for some long-haul trucking. Solazyme , a South San Francisco, Calif.-based company that creates synthetic biological products, said Wednesday that its microalgae-derived fuel is the first renewable diesel to meet the American Society for Testing and Materials' D-975 specifications. Here is algae being grown in dishes at Solazyme's labs. The oil produced by the algae can be used for fuels, chemical, or food oils. (Credit: Solazyme)
The race is on for a new form of fuel. With gasoline skyrocketing to more than $4 a gallon in 2008, dependence on imported oil and depleting resources worldwide, finding alternatives to petroleum-based fuel and fuel-related products is urgent. Fortunately, scientists have been studying the production of alternative products to make a cleaner, greener fuel for years. It's possible that we may be using one of these alternative fuels in the near future.
Benefits of Oil Produced With the Help of the OriginOil System Cleaner to Produce and Burn Petroleum contains sulfur and other toxins. It is a major pollutant and damages human health on a global scale. Drilling operations are highly noxious; crude spills on sea and land are natural catastrophes; and refineries produce heavy pollutants. By contrast, algae production generates no toxins — it’s a lot like growing grass hydroponically.