Biofuel: future fuels from algae
Fuel from the sea
Large brown macroalgae (seaweeds) naturally grow very fast in easily accessible coastal locations and are readily used as as source of biofuel. They lack lignin and have a low cellulose content, which makes them a better material than land plants for complete biological degradation to methane.
Seaweeds can be used to generate methane via anaerobic digestion or to produce ethanol by fermentation.
Oil from microalgae
Whilst microalgae can be anaerobically digested to produce methane and fermented to produce ethanol, their greater potential value lies in the production of biodiesel.
Biodiesel from microalgae has two key advantages over biodiesel produced from other plant oils:
• Microalgae produce high levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids. This gives microalgal biodiesel much better cold weather properties. It is fluid at lower temperatures, and so allows diesel engines to function well in cold conditions
• Microalgae produce 20 to 30 times more oil than temperate plant oil crops when cultured in photobioreactors or on land in open ponds.
BioMara aims to facilitate commercial biodiesel production by first identifying the high-yielding microalgal strains and then determining the optimal conditions for cultivating them.