Saturday, October 16, 2010

Algae Biomass is Prolific and Leaves Farmland for Growing Crops

The Earth is 70% covered by salt water. It makes sense to utilise the saltwater marine environment to produce feedstocks for fuels, chemicals, plastics, and other materials.
Biofuels from algae grown in seawater are the only fossil fuel alternative that doesn't compromise food and freshwater supplies, believes Yusuf Chisti. Algae are an increasingly popular potential feedstock for biofuels, but the Massey University, New Zealand, scientist says that currently used techniques won't provide fuel in the quantities needed. _IOP

Algae, says Mayfield, is going to be the next big agricultural crop. The only difference is algae grows on water, whereas traditional ag crops grow on land.

Today, researchers across the country are studying algae to produce fuel and feed and maybe even some day fiber, and Mayfield told me during an interview as part of a San Diego Algae Tour, that what we’re looking for in algae is exactly what they worry about in ag.

There are four things that Mayfield and his team are focusing on in their algae research: growth rate, the product being made, crop protection and harvestability. For example, when his team is growing algae, they need it to grow fast, produce a high amount of lipids, be free of disease, and be harvested as cheaply as possible. _DF

Both micro-algae and macro-algae will be most useful for their biomass in the early stages of algal fuels and chemicals. Using pyrolysis, gasification, fermentation, and catalytic synthesis, industrial chemists will be able to turn algal biomass into fuels, chemicals, plastics, and a wide range of other valuable materials which would otherwise be made from fossil fuel sources.

While fossil fuel sources are far more plentiful than generally acknowledged, biomass crops such as algal forms can be grown at will over most of the world's surface -- including the oceans. This ability to locate and scale one's feedstock source -- and to replenish it year after year -- is an advantage which has not yet been figured into the economic picture.

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