Green Gold: Algae, Possibly The Next Popular Biofuel
December 9, 2008 10:00 AM
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Algae used a biofuel is inching closer to reality
As companies look for alternative fuels to help ease the world's reliance on oil, researchers and companies have created several viable alternatives.
The aerospace industry hopes
algae can be refined
and used to help fuel commercial airliners and jets. In the short term, it's likely algae would be mixed with gasoline and diesel, though it's possible algae could be used to eliminate both resources at some point.
Select Boeing aircraft will use a mix of jet fuel and fuel made from algae and jatropha seeds, Boeing said. Continental Airlines will be the first airline company to use algae as a fuel, with Air New Zealand and others expected to begin testing algae or jatropha-based technologies.
Continental's first demonstration flight is expected to take place in Houston on Jan. 7, though the flight
will not carry passengers
and use a blend of jet fuel with algae and jatropha.
Even with the backing of Boeing and other aerospace giants, algae supporters must now request the federal government give them loans, research and development backing, tax breaks, and other similar perks that corn and soybean researchers are actively receiving.
"We are up against formidable opposition from competing interests," said Jason Pyle, Sapphire Energy CEO. Sapphire Energy has created a new "green crude" gasoline that is entirely made up of algae.
Algae for use as a biofuel has been more widely researched in the past few years, and it seems like it will continue to be a popular topic.
The Colorado Field Institute (CFI) will host a biotech meeting with Colorado State University to discuss the use of algae as a biofuel later this week. The focus of the meeting is the use of a
in rural Colorado.
Researchers will continue to look for alternatives to gas, but even with major research breakthroughs, it's unlikely the heavy U.S. reliance on foreign oil will end any time soon. Ethanol, a popular technology that still receives major research,
caused the cost of food to soar
, and much work will have to be done in order to
make ethanol a more viable solution
or to develop a satisfactory alternative.
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RE: This or hydrogen
12/9/2008 2:02:57 PM
As far as aviation fuel goes, hydrogen at least probably won't be viable there for a long, long time. Tanks are heavy, refueling too slow, etc. Ethanol has all kinds of problems for use in aviation, too; all the ones involved in using it in cars (but magnified because weight is much more important), along with difficulty spotting contamination in fuel samples (water dissolves).
Algae and similar ways of deriving fuel will be the only way to go for aviation. It's being done in the lab by many groups, just have to sit back and wait for someone to figure out how to mass produce it cheaply.
RE: This or hydrogen
12/10/2008 6:01:46 PM
I wonder what the Hindenburg used for fuel.
If they used hydrogen then their fuel tanks were really light (when I say for fuel, I mean to make the ship move, not burn)
"So if you want to save the planet, feel free to drive your Hummer. Just avoid the drive thru line at McDonalds." -- Michael Asher
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