Algae: Bio Fuel of the Future
Bio Fuels are clearly the most suitable alternative energy of the future as oil and coal are both rapidly vanishing and increasingly out of interest for nations wishing to avoid terrorist nations. Recently, algae has been discovered as an extremely suitable bio fuel because of its surprisingly high ratio of yield to area required for growth.
In 1960 Oswald and Golweke proposed the use of large‐scale ponds for cultivating algae on wastewater nutrients and anaerobically fermenting the biomass into methane fuel. Algae, like all bio fuels, harvests the energy from water and sunlight to produce oil which can be converted into biodiesel as well as the carbohydrate content to be fermented into ethanol (Benemann, Olst, et al. 1). The concept of using vegetal oil as an engine fuel likely dates back to when Rudolf Diesel (1858‐1913) developed the first engine to run on peanut oil, as he demonstrated at the World Exhibition in Paris in 1900 (Biodiesel 1). Using algae, however, is only a very recent concept as the first algae biodiesel plant only opened this year on April 1, 2008. The company, PetroSun, is expected to produce ≈4.4 million gallons of algal oil and 110 million lbs of biomass per year in their 1,000 acres. Fuel will not be produced immediately, but they will be building or acquiring ethanol and biodiesel production plants in the near future (Cornell 1).
With the ever‐rising prices of fossil fuels and the realization that our supply is severely limited, the need for an alternative energy source is rising steadily. Clearly the most efficient of the alternative options lies in bio fuels because they are naturally grown and thus have an unlimited supply, have virtually zero emissions, and can be used in existing diesel engines. The trouble with most biofuels, however, is in the vast amount of land area they require to produce a suitable amount of crop and the low ratio of the yield/area required. Algae are different, however, because they are easy to grow, require far less land and have very high production rates. For this reason it is very important to understand as much as possible about the cultivation of algae as an energy source.
Algal Bio Fuels 2
The possibilities of algae as a wide‐scale bio fuel are virtually endless. Whereas most other bio fuels must be slowly grown, and can only be harvested certain times of the year, algae can double in volume overnight and can be harvested day after day. They also make use of CO2 and are nearly 50% oil (whereas palms are only about 20%). The amount we can produce peer acre is also a large advantage because of the high yield for the small volume. For example, soy produces approximately 50 gallons of oil/acre•year; canola produces 150 gallons/acre•year; palm produces 650 gallons/acre•year; in comparison algae are expected to produce between 10‐15,000 gallons/acre•year (Haag 2). Clearly algae have the highest potential of any of these bio fuels simply based on its high...