Gallery: Microbubbles Enable More Efficient Production Of Algae Biofuel...

 

Algae biofuel is one of the most promising alternative fuels on the market – so far we’ve seen cars and even planes adapted to run on it. The main drawback thus far has been high production costs and energy usage – until now. Using a new “cost-effective harvesting method” featuring microbubbles, a team from the University of Sheffield believe they have found a way to make algae a more commercially viable fuel source.

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  1. Organic Mechanic January 28, 2012 at 12:35 pm

    We are on the precipice on an Algae Revolution!

    Algae can be made into a variety of biofuels, including biodiesel, ethanol, hydrogen, and biogas (as well as other materials). To add to your analysis, here are some pros and cons to algae as fuel:

    PROS:
    Algae grows in all directions
    Single celled, no superstructure required for algae (roots, trunks, leaves)
    Growth: 140 days for land crops; algae is year round, mature in 1-2 days
    Algae weathers extreme conditions, is resistant to drought, wind, rain
    Grow 30-100 x more oil per acre than corn or soybeans
    No sulfur, non toxic, biodegradable
    Can mix with existing fuels in existing vehicles
    Can also produce bioplastics, medicine, nutrition, feed, fertilizer, more
    Can absorb CO2 and other pollutants from power and cement plants, fossil fuel refining, fermentation based industries, ethanol production, etc

    CONS:

    Scale – difficulty replicating lab results into larger volume of production

    Growing – using open ponds are easily contaminated, PBR’s (photobioreactors) can be expensive

    Processing – challenges to harvesting & extracting oil

    Carbon Capture – is it really feasible? Can the algae keep up with the output, and what about during the night when algae is not active? Can the waste be reliably transferred into the algae? Are the right growing conditions and enough land there to cultivate the algae? (“to fully use the emissions from a 50 MWe natural gas fired power plant land would require 2200 acres of algae.”) Additional nutrients are required, such as N, P, or K, which must be added in precise amounts and typically come from chemicals like ammonia or nitrate and phosphorous. Taking into consideration all of the processing, is there a net capture of CO2? Also, capturing the emissions it is not true sequestration, as it will be burned again as fuel.

    Differing results from strains, environmental conditions, growing systems

    If chemicals are used to extract oil or process fuel, exhaust can be toxic

    Environmental Concerns – in scaled cultivation, especially of GM (genetically modified) algae – what if it seriously disrupts the ecosystem?

    To learn how to make algae biofuels, check out:
    Algae to Biodiesel: http://www.organicmechanic.com/algae-to-biodiesel/
    Algae to Ethanol: http://www.organicmechanic.com/algae-ethanol/

    For a look at the broad range of goods possible from algae and considerations for how to scale them up into entrepreneurial pursuits, check out Algae Business:
    http://www.organicmechanic.com/algae-business/

    Let me know if there are any questions about algae, or equipment to cultivate and use biofuels!

    – Chris

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