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Earth Science Technology

Researchers Pooh-Pooh Algae-Based Biofuel 238

Julie188 writes "Researchers from the University of Virginia have found that current algae biofuel production methods consume more energy, have higher greenhouse gas emissions and use more water than other biofuel sources, such as switchgrass, canola and corn. The researchers suggest these problems can be overcome by situating algae production ponds behind wastewater treatment facilities to capture phosphorous and nitrogen — essential algae nutrients that otherwise need to come from petroleum."
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Researchers Pooh-Pooh Algae-Based Biofuel

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  • Re:Land values (Score:5, Interesting)

    by 2obvious4u ( 871996 ) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @05:24PM (#30851678)
    They could also put them downstream from chicken farms. I believe one of the biggest problems with the Chesapeake bay water shed is to much nitrogen in the water. If this could be used to produce fuel and clean up all the nitrogen run off from industrial agriculture it would be a double win.
  • Pond vs Bioreactor (Score:5, Interesting)

    by geek2k5 ( 882748 ) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @06:02PM (#30852430)

    The article seems to be focusing on pond based algae biofuels as opposed to the bioreactor based ones that have been getting recent media attention.

    They do mention the bioreactor based algae biofuels, but claim that the photo bioreactors are unlikely to scale efficiently and that unlined ponds are the most reasonable configuration. Of course, the paper they are using for this claim dates back to 1996. They really need to update their economic analysis reference.

  • by martinbogo ( 468553 ) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @06:14PM (#30852646) Homepage Journal

    Actually .. there are both yeasts and algae that literally -output- diesel as a byproduct of their metabolic processes. The researchers in this article focused on the conversion of algae to biofuels using heat and industrial processes, but this is not the technique currently in favor amongst the algae biofuel startups. Most have strains of yeasts (and algae) that were discovered around the world that have low yields of diesel fuel byproduct, and are working via rapid natural selection and genetic engineering techniques to increase the yield to commercially viable levels.

    So, you get the valuable algae .. AND .. you get the diesel byproducts. It costs sunlight, and fertilizer plus some post processing and captures more carbon than is emitted by burning the fuel. Sounds pretty good to me.

  • by Hasai ( 131313 ) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @06:22PM (#30852812)

    Why not? It emits one hell of a lot less radiation and other pollution than a coal-fired one does.

    Do your homework before you consign everyone to freezing in the dark.

  • by WillAffleckUW ( 858324 ) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @07:07PM (#30853562) Homepage Journal

    At the UW in Seattle we've had a number of patents (available via UW Tech) for biofuel from switchgrass, as well as biofilm approaches.

    The algae methods have proven less promising, unless you're looking for specific oils that are otherwise derived from petroleum distillation.

  • by joocemann ( 1273720 ) on Thursday January 21, 2010 @07:38PM (#30854018)

    ... do NOT come from petroleum.

  • by FishTankX ( 1539069 ) on Friday January 22, 2010 @12:19AM (#30856256)
    Because once you squish the algae for use in diesel fuel you can use the left overs as animal feed. If we produced enough petrochemicals from biodiesel to run all of america's cars, trucks trains and ships, which is about 147 trillion liters, then we would have an equivalent amount of animal feed (oil algae is only half oil.) Assuming that this weighs HALF as much as the oil does, this provides us with roughly 16,000,000,000 tons of animal feed, which i'm sure can make a NOTICEABLE dent in the fuel supply, and free up more corn for hungry people in the best case scenario, or ethanol in the worst case. Disclaimer: Math in the feed calculations may be off by up to an order of magnitude if I goofed.
  • by Huzzah! ( 1548443 ) on Friday January 22, 2010 @06:22AM (#30857762)
    Hydrogen peroxide is also the only thing to use to get blood stains out of clothing.

    I'm so domestic.

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