Posted by: Leander | January 7, 2010

Algae: A Fuel for the Future?

Algae are very simple organisms. They contain chlorophyll and therefore photosynthesise. Some algae exist as simple cells others as cells grouped together in colonies and some exist as many-celled organisms. Algae are the organisms that cause ponds to look green. Some algae live as long strings of cells. These long strings are often found in ponds and known as ‘blanket weed’. Recent research has indicated that algae could be one alternative to fossil fuels. Algae can give 30 times more energy per acre than other biofuel crops such as soybeans. This is because each cell contains a high percentage of lipids, sometimes as much as 60% of its mass. It’s early days but researchers around the globe, including researchers at the University of Manchester, are working hard to exploit the potential of algae. . Algae also regenerate very quickly. This allows several harvests in a very short time frame.

Specimen of the algae 'Chlorella' in the Manchester Museum collection

This Manchester Museum specimen of Chlorella vulgaris may look rather unimpressive but it is one of those algae species that is being investigated for its potential use as a biofuel. This specimen was purchased by the Manchester Museum from the German botanist Walter Migula  (1863-1938) in 1928.

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Responses

  1. […] more here:  Algae: A Fuel for the Future? « Nature Manchester tags: allows-several, also-regenerate, arts, college-falmouth, falmouth, globe, […]

  2. There is so many other alternative to gas…let alone biofuel such as sugar and corn! We keep going around in circles when we have solar energy right here day after day!

  3. Its time for something new.Algae”

  4. It’s time for something new. “ALGAE”

  5. More on biofuels…

    Geobacillus thermoglucosidasius is a long name for a tiny bacterium with the potential to produce guilt free bioethanol. Most biofuel is produced by fermenting the starches and sugars in crops such as maize. But the large scale planting of biofuel crops in recent years has resulted in escalating food prices and has its critics as a result.

    Geobacillus thermoglucosidasius, a bacterium found in compost heaps, has been engineered to produce ethanol from a wide variety of organic waste, not just biofuel crops. It has a further advantage, being a heat-loving bacterium, that the process is much more efficient than current methods. Here’s the story… A small company was formed in 2002 to commercialise a seemingly unimportant discovery, made in the 1970s, that some heat-loving bacteria produced small amounts of ethanol. A suitable high yielding strain was isolated and in 2008 a prototype production plant was built at Guildford in Surrey. It has since produced ethanol from a wide variety of organic waste. As a result of this success, TMO renewables was a recent winner of a Carbon Trust Innovation Award.

    David Green
    Curator of Mineralogy.


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