Algae May Be Next Big Thing In Clean Energy Production


Scientists are looking into developing a new method of producing a worldwide supply of energy from the natural resource of, not corn or soybeans, but algae.

Natural, abundant and easy to process, algae just might be able to do the job of outperforming all existing biofuel options, including solar.

Algae, which are found in the massive water source of the Earth's oceans, make use of the photosynthetic process to produce energy. Some types of algae produce oil good for storing energy. With this, certain algae can be farmed, grown and harvested to undergo the net carbon-neutral process and create biofuel.

Crops like corn and soybeans have been previously found to produce biofuel. Over them, however, algae have additional advantages. The U.S. Department of Energy noted that algae yields range from 10 to 100 times higher than traditional biofuel sources. Since algae can be grown in marginal or brackish agricultural areas, they don't compete with other crops and resources for land, significantly ramping up production.

In 2013, the global biofuel market was estimated to be worth approximately $100 billion. In the next few decades, this market is likely to have almost doubled.

Craig Venter, a scientist and entrepreneur, said it takes a land area three times the size of the United States to replace all of the fuel that has been used in transportation in the U.S. alone with biofuel derived from corn. As for algae, it would only take an area as big as that of Maryland.

The Department of Energy is therefore allotting money in an effort to promote the viability and efficiency of algae as a producer of biofuel. The agency has put aside $13 million in funding.

In Ohio, Just Energy, a green energy provider, has also pushed for more state level assistance in funding researches that make growth, processing and extraction more efficient. Other countries are also becoming more interested in biofuel production through algae.

In 2011, the United Airlines flew the first passenger plane solely powered by algae products. In Hamburg, Germany, the BIQ House is known to use bioreactors that are filled with algae to produce heat and biomass, even in the absence of electricity.

Photo: Oliver Dodd | Flickr

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