Monday, September 29, 2008

Disgustingly Green Biofuel

pond full of green algae - and rubbish
Originally uploaded by Scorpions and Centaurs

It's ugly and smelly, but it makes a pretty good biofuel. Green algae has some unique properties, which is one of the reasons that AlgaeLink, a Netherlands firm, is attempting to commercialize algae production with their bioreactors.

In a Huffington Post entry, Green Energy: Cost-Efficient Process Expected to Turn Algae Into Fuel, the rationale becomes clear.
"This is the ultimate fast-growing organism," says Peter van den Dorpel, chief operating officer of AlgaeLink, which makes bioreactors for speeding reproduction. "Algae is lazy. It eats carbon dioxide and produces oxygen." It has no roots, no leaves, no shoots. "It grows so fast because it has nothing else to do. It just swims in the water."

Farming algae doesn't require much space or good cropland, so it avoids the fuel-for-food dilemma that has plagued first and second generation biofuels like corn, rapeseed and palm oil.

It can grow in fresh water, polluted water, sea water or farm runoff. It can purify a city's sewage while feeding on the nitrogen and phosphates in human waste.

Given the numerous problems in using agricultural crops for biofuel, plentiful, fast-growing algae could be a practical alternative that effectively addresses many of the key problems.