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Algae Production For Biofuel - Article Example

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Algae Production for Biofuel With the exhaustion of fossil fuels in the future a stark reality, research into alternative sources of energy has become an obsession in the international scientific community. Desperation to keep running the technological machinery developed in the last century has forced mankind to look at renewable natural resources which offer promise to yield some semblance of the fuels in current usage…
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Algae Production For Biofuel
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Download file to see previous pages Traditional ethanol and oil rich plants such as sugarcane, corn and rapeseed have been tried successfully in various regions of the world to yield biodiesel for industrial use. However, the economics of biodiesel production has still to provide figures for potentially feasible and sustainable means to this end. Algae, which are simple botanical forms of life possessing the ability to reproduce at a fast rate with minimal of inputs are being looked at as a potential sources of biodiesel, as some of the millions of its species have been discovered to be rich in triglycerides and other fats/oils necessary for biofuel production. The major advantage of using algae for biofuel production is that they grow in ponds and wastewater, which do not encroach upon terrestrial territory already reserved for the cultivation of food crops. Moreover, algae possess the ability to double their biomass in as less as one day under optimized conditions (Odlare et al, 2011). The high growth rate however has to be optimized in relation to oil production within the organism as these two properties are contradictory to each other (Csavina et al, 2011). Methodologies and technologies are therefore being developed to cultivate algae in controlled conditions to achieve this objective. Lipids, sugar and hydrogen gas are considered the primary units of energy and a study at the University of Arizona reveals that algae have a distinct advantage over terrestrial cultivable crops such as corn as they possess a 300 fold advantage in producing the basic units for producing biofuel (Littin, 2011). Although the cost of production of fuel from algae still exceeds the value of the final product, intensive research is going on at the university as well as other parts of the world to optimize the process towards a profitable direction (Littin, 2011). Moreover, it has been discovered that secondary wastewater rich in nitrogen and phosphorus can be utilized to grow algae eliminating the need of fertilizers (Littin, 2011). In turn, the algae besides producing lipids for potential use as biofuel purify the water as well, resulting in a double benefit. Grown in controlled conditions of specific light exposure and deprivation of nitrogen and sulfur at particular stages of their life promote lipid production in the algae, which are the strategies being explored by the scientists involved in this research (Littin, 2011). Biofuel or biodiesel can be produced from any biomass which has high lipid content. The process involves extraction of oil from the biomass by a process called transesterification which yields triglycerides, which possess the properties ideal for a biofuel (Taylor, 2011). Algae can either be grown in open ponds or in controlled conditions in what is known as a photo-bioreactor (Taylor, 2011). The latter is a sealed aquaculture system in which conditions can be optimized and manipulated according to required objectives of high lipid production by the organisms. Such bioreactors are however costly to build as well as maintain and may not be the ideal means for biofuel production from algae. Identification of the appropriate species and varieties of algae growing in natural ponds and wastewater reservoirs in natural conditions, which provide the maximum yield of lipids can be the only means, once identified, to make economically feasible and sustainable methods for ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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