Algae biofuel pioneer OriginOil, Inc. has come up with a new, more efficient design for growing algae for biofuel, using the kind of microalgae that blooms naturally in ponds. With the help of lenses that channel solar radiation within layers of algae, the new system greatly reduces the amount of pond acreage needed to grow algae crops. The new system could help algae biofuel leap one obstacle to mass market commercialization, which is the vast amount of real estate and water resources required to scale up an algae growing operation.
OriginOil claims that the new system, called MultiReactor, is up to 20 times more efficient than conventional algae farming. It looks promising so far in lab tests. The next step involves one of those sustainable twofers we love so much: OriginOil plans to field test the system in a standard 40-foot container. If the system lives up to its promise, practically any recycled shipping container in the world could become an ultra-compact insta-algae biofuel farm.
Algae: The “Other” Fossil Fuel
As OriginOil’s website explains, most petroleum is made from decomposed algae. The fossil fuel to algae link has been described by researchers at Texas A&M University based on an examination of the Botryococcus braunii green algae, which they traced directly to coal as well as to petroleum deposits.
New Algae Biofuel Breakthroughs
OriginOil is focusing on growing freshwater algae for biofuel. Others are looking into saltwater algae biofuel, but whether salty or fresh, biofuel is just one aspect of the role that algae will play in the sustainable future. Researchers are looking into algae-based batteries, direct algae-to-electricity generation, and bioplastics made from algae. Researchers are also developing more efficient ways to harvest biofuel feedstock from algae, and that’s to say nothing of a recent finding that an algae diet reduces greenhouse gas emissions from cows.
Image: Algae by dospaz on flickr.com.