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Showing posts from August, 2009

Focus on Algae - Part II: Energy

In the last focus section, we discussed how algae can be used to treat waste waters and mitigate CO2 in the process. Today's post will explore how algae can be used for energy generation. As already mentioned in the last time, biofuels have become very visible as of late due to environmental, economical and geopolitcal reasons. If at the heart of traditional biofuel generation lies in the creation and decomposition of biomass, then it would be easy to substitute corn or other less controversial land-based plants with algae. Although a lot of attention is paid to the use of algae in biofuel generation, and this article also mainly focusses on this aspect, it should be noted that algae can also be used to generate electricity by direct combustion of the biomass. Plans for these kinds of schemes are already on the way in Venice and a few other European locations [1].

Algae and Biofuels

What happens to the biomass after it has been created depends on the type of biofuel that is desired…

What are Biofuels?

Introduction

With prices for crude oil spiking in the recent past, and an unstable Middle East and intensifying effects of climate disruptions, the Obama administration and governments around the world have been promoting the development, and deployment of newer, more sustainable forms of energy generation, amongst which are biofuels.

What are Biofuels?

At the heart of every hydrocarbon based fuel (gasoline, diesel, kerosene, coal) are anaerobic degradation processes of organic material. For fossil fuels, the source of organic material comes from planctonic life, plants, and animals that lived and died millions of years ago. For biofuels, the source of organic material comes from planctonic life, plants or other sources of much more recent origin.

The important concepts to note are:

1.) Building up organic matter removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
2.) Burning hydrocarbon based fuels releases the carbon originally tied up in the form of carbon dioxide.

So when we pump up the oil and …