Algae Growing Methods
Algae is probably best known as an aquatic plant. The term covers a very diverse group of plants ranging from sizes of over one hundred feet to tiny microscopic organisms, and one form of algae or another can be found in bodies of water around the world. Like other plants, they grow via photosynthesis; and can convert sunlight and gasses into a solid substance called biomass (autotrophic). Some species can grow in the dark, using sugars and starches in place of light (heterotrophic); while others can grow from both modes of growth (mixotrophic). Algae plays a vital role in the world’s ecosystems, producing as much of 70% of the air that gives breath to life. Recently, algae has gained a reputation as being one of the most essential and versatile plants of the future. Farms specifically built to cultivate crops of algae are popping up rapidly. It has the potential to be used in countless different applications; including medicine, food, and biodegradable plastics. But the most significant of them all is biofuel, which is derived from the oils contained in algae. While the concept it still in its infancy; early tests have been extremely successful, causing many experts to suggest that algae just might be one of the greatest sources of fuel in the future.
Algae and Biofuels
Algae has the potential to be used in many different applications and industries, but one stands apart and is particularly relevant: fuel. Studies beginning in the 1950s and on through the ‘80s-’90s led to the discovery that algae had unique properties that made it a remarkable new type of clean energy. A few years ago, research scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy used an enhanced “cooking” process to convert a mixture of algae and water into a substance that is very similar to crude oil. The crude oil from algae contains no traces of petroleum, but it can be mixed in with fossil fuels to manufacture a biodiesel-petrol hybrid. It if it continues to develop and evolve as expected, algae could be a major source of clean energy in the near future. Additionally, it can be produced for quite a low price is a clean and renewable source of fuel. Biofuels and biodiesel is already starting to be sold across America. In 2011, a Boeing 737 jet of Continental Airlines and powered by a biofuel hybrid became the first commercial airline flight to use an algae-based fuel. This was only the beginning, as engineers started to increase their research and development work to build upon the triumph. Chemists have been as optimistic as to suggest that algae could be used in several of the most commonly used fuels.
Is Algae Unlocking A Bright Future?
Harnessing the world’s natural resources to their fullest potential is a key to unlocking a brighter future. Algae-based biofuels are one of the best examples of that kind of innovative spirit. The concept of using algae to make crude oil is ingenious and inspired. It certainly seems like the idea is picking up steam and popularity by each passing day, so the next great discovery might come sooner than expected.