Derived from plants, trees and bio waste, bio fuels are renewable biological resources. With the rise in the oil prices and the depletion of fossil fuel resources, an interest in bio fuels has been sparked. However certain bio fuels like ethanol derived from fermented sugars. Corn, Sugar Cane, Soy, Sugar Beet, Palm oil, Jatropha and even cellulose of trees resulted in competing demands between foods and the biofuel sources, thus inflating food prices. This problem has led to the increasing interest in alga culture and algae fuels as the next generation of bio fuels.
Utilization as Fuel Source
Found easily in ponds and seas, this “great green hope” can be used for generating huge amounts of energy. Moreover they do not utilize fresh water resources and are biodegradable, thus posing no threat to the environment. They can grow in a range of environments including salt water and contaminated water with just the presence of sunlight and water needed for it to thrive. The plant, rich in oil uses photosynthesis to convert carbon dioxide and water to energy which in turn helps it grow by leaps and bounds in just a matter of days. This makes it an easily accessible oil resource which can be even grown on marginal lands that are useless for crop production.
While the raw form is available as biocrude, it can further be refined to generate other energy sources like gasoline, diesel and jet fluid. Ethanol production is possible if strains of algae with less oil and rich in carbohydrates are used.
Production of Algae Fuels
The production of algae is limited to open pond systems and water sources close to carbon dioxide. Instead of utilizing the scarce land resources, scientists have come up with concentrated photobioreactors for enabling large scale algae production.
Like any other energy saving resource, algae fuels have a long way to go to make it an economically viable solution. Limitations like the presence of large amounts of water and sunlight have to be overcome. The promise that this alternative energy source holds is clearly displayed in the test flights held by Virgin Airlines and Boeing that used algae fuel among the other biofuels. With time advances in this technology is expected.