Algae as a Source of Biofuel
It has been predicted that biofuels will become the next essential fuel source to power the planet. The population of earth is growing; and the fossil fuel supplies are becoming depleted. Some sort of biology-based fuels will be needed to become the new energy leader of the fuel market. Ethanol has been criticized as becoming a new reliable biofuel because it competes food for various land spaces. For this reason and others, algae have come into the spotlight recently as a source of biomass for fuel. Algae refers to a diverse group of photosynthetic, eukaryotic organisms, which include unicellular forms, such as microalgae and cyanobacteria as well as multicellular macroalgae, more commonly knowm as seaweed. Algal biofuels don’t take up precious land needed to grow food products because the algae can be grown in open ponds or enclosed photobioreactors. There exist conservatively 100,000 different species of algae. Algae possess a high oil content. This oil can be extracted and converted into biodiesel fuel. The other components of algae, composed of proteins, carbohydrates, and metabolites, can be separately processed into valuable products using a variety of conversion technologies. Theses technologies include chemical, biochemical, and thermochemical processes.
It may become cumbersome to extract the individual components of the algae separately and develop them into their own energy optimization schemes. So, researchers have developed methods to convert the entire algal biomass into biocrude,which can be further refined and blended in with petroleum as a drop-in fuel. Additionally, since algae exists in great abundance in waste water since waste water is rich in nutrients that algae need to grow, the growing of algae is also a resource that can be used for the benefit of the environment.