As Americans demand new and cleaner ways to meet the country's energy needs, researchers are turning to algae as a promising new fuel source. The approach has the potential to significantly reduce the nation's reliance on imported oil while contributing to rural economic development and lowering greenhouse emissions.
Experts project that algae-based biofuels could displace large volumes of diesel and jet transportation fuels. One of the field's leading experts, Sandia researcher Ron Pate, presented an overview of the current state of research and development and associated opportunities and challenges for algal biofuels during the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in San Diego on Feb. 19.
Algae is emerging as an attractive resource because it reproduces quickly, uses large quantities of carbon dioxide and can thrive in non-freshwater, including brackish and marine water, thus avoiding competition with traditional agriculture's freshwater needs. In addition, algae can produce biomass and oils, and is attractive as feedstock for renewable fuels, with potentially greater productivity and significantly less land use requirements than with other commodity crop feedstocks such as corn, soy and canola.
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