Countless Solutions Biofuel Production Could Create For The Future

BiofuelsEarlier in March, the top award in the annual “Intel Science Talent Search” was given to Sara Volz, a high-school senior from Colorado, who used a technique to significantly increase oil yields from algae, which would provide a viable source of biofuel. Zintro experts describe the wide range of applications algae fuel production can lead to, in the near future.

Stafford Doc Williamson, an expert in biodiesel fuel and technology, is excited to see the new generation become more aware of the field of algae as an important energy resource for the future. “Sara Volz has done some remarkable work considering that her project was in the microbiology field, though nothing revealed about it in the article shows that it was anything except the same kind of selective cross breeding common among Future Farmers of America and other 4H style competitions. It is always my contention that ‘the future’ has already happened, you just haven’t heard about it yet,” he explains. “A good example from the 1960’s about auto-piloted superhighways, flying cars and personalized rapid transit that were predicted for the far away 1980’s of that time. Society prognostications are almost always bound to fail because they are largely projections of ‘known’ technologies in a logical and streamlined solution to today’s problems. State of the art algae fuel technologies of today are certain to follow this pattern as well.”

According to Williamson, the short-term prospects for algae cultivation are far easier to achieve than expected, even though it will take much longer than 3 months to implement the infrastructure. “A kilo of algae that doubles just once daily, given adequate feed could theoretically grow to be several hundred million times the weight of the entire planet, Earth, in under 90 days. The number is very large regardless of whether you start with a pound, kilo, or even a single cell of microscopic algae,” he adds.  “Since algae doubles at this rate under reasonably favorable conditions, in theory it could be incredibly cheap and provide not only fuel but also food within 90 days if we just had the buckets to cultivate it in.”

Given the level of interest and willingness to invest the needed capital; Williamson believes that a whole range of valuable products can be created with the existing enhancements, including the following:

  1. From tar to light naphtha, by hydrotreating the oils instead of merely doing a transesterifiction, as well as;
  2. the ‘side business’ of chemical byproducts like Omega3 fatty acids, and astaxanthin, which, although not cheap to extract, are already worth 15 times as much as some of the light fuels, produced as the main crop.

“There will very soon be a very robust development of algae as a fuel, food and fodder product and algae will be far more important that anyone has yet acknowledged,” notes Williamson.

By Idil Kan

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