As we continue to find new sources of renewable energy, one that has come into the spotlight recently is algae. There are over 100,000 different strains of algae on our planet, but who would have thought those little plants could be the solution to our growing fuel needs?
In short, all plants—including algae—contain lipids. Lipids are fatty acid molecules that contain oil. Once extracted from the plant, these lipids are called biocrude. The biocrude is then refined into usable biofuel.
While not all of those thousands of types of algae are the same, they do share some common characteristics that make them a particularly attractive source for energy.
- They grow everywhere.
Traditional plants used for fuel production (like corn) use valuable land for farming. After several seasons, the nutrients in the soil become depleted requiring farmers to rotate their crops. This same land area could be used to produce crops for human consumption or to meet other needs.
Algae, on the other hand, will grow in just about any water environment—from wastewater to seawater. Given sunlight and a few nutrients, algae can double its size in as little as a few hours.
- They keep our air clean.
Some of those nutrients algae need to grow include carbon dioxide—that same CO2 that we have an abundance of in some areas of our world. Growing algae extracts a great deal of this harmful gas out of our atmosphere. Scientists are even working with businesses to place algae farms next to industries using fossil fuels and emitting CO2 into the air.
- They contain a lot of energy.
Because of their high rate of growth, algae contain a high amount of lipids. While the challenge has always been extracting the biocrude from the algae plant, the benefits are enormous. According to Biomass Magazine, a traditional crop of plants can yield somewhere between 10-100 gallons of oil per acre; however, algae is capable of providing us with 1,000 to 5,000 gallons of oil in that same amount of space.
What can you power with biofuel made from algae? Anything that can be powered by diesel can be powered by this biofuel. That means your next airplane trip could be sending you through the skies with fuel made from those tiny green plants.
Want to learn more about revolutionary biofuels?
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