What is so cool about algae, it grows everywhere but doesn’t seem to serve any purpose? Scientists have found a way to produce third generation biofuels through the use of algae and sea weeds. This could allow for a higher oil production yield, while reducing the amount of green house gas emissions in the environment.
Algae are present in all ecosytems and can survive in many different environmental conditions. Using it as a biofuel could have an enormous amount of potential benefits. Since algae uses carbon dioxide, it could grow in power plants and free more oxygen into the atmosphere. In wastewater, algae can remove nitrogen and phosphorous and reduce pollution. Microalgae can produce large amounts of lipids, proteins, and carbohydrates, which can be converted into biofuel.
What are biofuels? Liquid, gas, and fuels normally produced from biomass such as methanol, biodiesel, or ethanol are all biofuels. Biofuels emit lower emissions of exhaust gas, are biodegradable, and renewable. They are divided into two catagories: primary and secondary. Primary biofuels such as wood are used mainly for heating or cooking. They take a long time to grow and give off large amounts of carbon dioxide or methane.
Secondary biofuels consist of first, second, and third generation. Second generation uses thermal and biological processing to turn agricultural biomass and municipal waste into biofuel. This however requires lots of land that may be needed for food production, and the production process can decrease land-use efficiency. Third generation avoids these drawbacks by using microscopic organisms such as algae.
The potential benefits are obvious for third generation biofuels; there are still problems with developing proper scale, land-use, and feedstock use. The production process requires the newest technologies. Through the use of either flue gas at power plants, or wastewater/sea water, enough carbon dioxide can be utilized to help reduce green house gases and produce biofuel. With proper technology and more research, it is only a matter of time before algae biofuel enters a large production process.
Singh, A., Olsen, S. I. and Nigam, P. S. (2011), A viable technology to generate third-generation biofuel. Journal of Chemical Technology and Biotechnology, 86: 1349–1353. doi: 10.1002/jctb.2666