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Novice Karate Group (ages 8 & up)

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Frank Titskey
Frank Titskey

Technological Advancement In Algal Biofuels Pro... BETTER

In 2012, researchers from MIT, ExxonMobil and Viridos (formerly Synthetic Genomics, Inc.) published an assessment of algal biofuels in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Science and Technology, which concluded that if key research hurdles are overcome, algal biofuels will have about 50 percent lower life cycle greenhouse gas emissions than petroleum-derived fuel. In contrast, there is a robust debate in the academic research community regarding the carbon footprint of first generation biofuels, which the EPA defines as those generated from edible crops (such as corn). Many peer-reviewed papers in the scientific literature suggest that the direct life cycle GHG emissions are lower than fossil fuels but that indirect consequences of first generation biofuel development, including changes in forest and agricultural land use change, may result in higher total GHG emissions than petroleum-derived fuels.

Technological Advancement in Algal Biofuels Pro...

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Pursuing this path involves considerable investment of time, money and scientific expertise in order to address the significant challenges associated with the development of economic, large-scale advanced biofuels. Further, predictions on success are difficult and depend directly on the pace of technological innovation. It could potentially take decades or more for advanced biofuels to reach a scale that would significantly benefit the transportation fuels sector.

Abstract:The current fossil fuel reserves are not sufficient to meet the increasing demand and very soon will become exhausted. Pollution, global warming, and inflated oil prices have led the quest for renewable energy sources. Algal biofuels represent a potential source of renewable energy. Algae, as the third generation feedstock, are suitable for biodiesel and bioethanol production due to their quick growth, excellent biomass yield, and high lipid and carbohydrate contents. With their huge potential, algae are expected to surpass the first and second generation feedstocks. Only a few thousand algal species have been investigated as possible biofuel sources, and none of them was ideal. This review summarizes the current status of algal biofuels, important steps of algal biofuel production, and the major commercial production challenges.Keywords: biofuels; microalgae; renewable energy; algal cultivation; biofuel conversion

Engineers use scientific and technological research to develop commercial applications and economic solutions. They design and test various products and machinery. In the biofuels industry, many engineers are involved in much of the same work as scientists, evaluating both existing and potential feedstocks, and examining which sources provide the best energy at a reasonable cost. However, they also may work on processing facility design and be familiar with industrial equipment.

Using our engineering and biochemical expertise, we use marine and freshwater algae strains in our lab and outdoor facilities to understand the algal metabolism and direct towards optimal synthesis of consumer products under real-world conditions. Algal lipids are converted to sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) and other biofuels, whereas certain pigments and lipids serve as sustainable biomaterials for nutraceutical and cosmetic formulations. Algal sugars are used to produce a myriad of chemicals via fermentation, whereas algal proteins (and whole algae) are incorporated into animal feed and fishmeal.

The new platform allows scientists to study in unprecedented detail the patterns of movement of microscopic algae. The insight could have implications for understanding and preventing harmful algal blooms, and for the development of algal biofuels, which could one day provide an alternative to fossil fuels.

One of the major challenges associated with algal biofuels production in a biorefinery-type setting is improving biomass utilization in its entirety, increasing the process energetic yields and providing economically viable and scalable coproduct concepts. We demonstrated the effectiveness of a novel, integrated technology based on moderate temperatures and low pH to convert the carbohydrates in wet algal biomass to soluble sugars for fermentation, while making lipids more accessible for downstream extraction and leaving a protein-enriched fraction behind. More recently, our group has focused on the impact of compositional characteristics of the biomass material on the susceptibility to pretreatment. The release of monomeric carbohydrates in the aqueous phase and extractability of the lipid fraction can be measured based on a response surface methodology, allowing for the analysis of interaction effects. We are particularly interested in the effect of harvest timing, and thereby the dynamic biochemical composition on the conversion yields and lipid quality, based on three algal strains: Chlorella vulgaris, Scenedesmus acutus, and Nannochloropsis granulata. We are combining theoretical calculations on projected fuel yields with experimental data on extractability for each of a select set of algal biomass samples tested. Simultaneously, we are investigating the impact of these novel conversion processes on the composition of lipids and how treatments affect the quality parameters of the intermediary feedstocks for the production of fuels and high-value coproducts.

The six projects were selected for their potential to demonstrate an improvement in carbon capture by algal systems leading to biofuels and other products, while also cutting costs and decreasing overall greenhouse gas emissions.

Biofuels made from algae are gaining attention as a domestic source of renewable fuel. However, with current technologies, scaling up production of algal biofuels to meet even 5 percent of U.S. transportation fuel needs could create unsustainable demands for energy, water, and nutrient resources. Continued research and development could yield innovations to address these challenges, but determining if algal biofuel is a viable fuel alternative will involve comparing the environmental, economic and social impacts of algal biofuel production and use to those associated with petroleum-based fuels and other fuel sources. Sustainable Development of Algal Biofuels was produced at the request of the U.S. Department of Energy.

Other biofuels are less expensive. Refining palm oil costs only $0,50 per kilo versus $1,80 for its algal counterpart. We must note though that palm oil plantations cause significant ecological damage as rainforests are burned down to make space for palm fields, resulting in the loss of animal life. With algae, there would be no such risks.

Other contributions to algal biofuels research have come indirectly from projects focusing on different applications of algal cultures. For example, in the 1990s Japan's Research Institute of Innovative Technology for the Earth (RITE) implemented a research program with the goal of developing systems to fix CO2 using microalgae.[17] Although the goal was not energy production, several studies produced by RITE demonstrated that algae could be grown using flue gas from power plants as a CO2 source,[18][19] an important development for algal biofuel research. Other work focusing on harvesting hydrogen gas, methane, or ethanol from algae, as well as nutritional supplements and pharmaceutical compounds, has also helped inform research on biofuel production from algae.[14]

Following the disbanding of the Aquatic Species Program in 1996, there was a relative lull in algal biofuel research. Still, various projects were funded in the US by the Department of Energy, Department of Defense, National Science Foundation, Department of Agriculture, National Laboratories, state funding, and private funding, as well as in other countries.[15] More recently, rising oil prices in the 2000s spurred a revival of interest in algal biofuels and US federal funding has increased,[15] numerous research projects are being funded in Australia, New Zealand, Europe, the Middle East, and other parts of the world.[20]

Biodiesel is a diesel fuel derived from animal or plant lipids (oils and fats). Studies have shown that some species of algae can produce 60% or more of their dry weight in the form of oil.[13][16][25][26][27] Because the cells grow in aqueous suspension, where they have more efficient access to water, CO2 and dissolved nutrients, microalgae are capable of producing large amounts of biomass and usable oil in either high rate algal ponds[28] or photobioreactors. This oil can then be turned into biodiesel which could be sold for use in automobiles. Regional production of microalgae and processing into biofuels will provide economic benefits to rural communities.[29]

In comparison with terrestrial-based biofuel crops such as corn or soybeans, microalgal production results in a much less significant land footprint due to the higher oil productivity from the microalgae than all other oil crops.[108] Algae can also be grown on marginal lands useless for ordinary crops and with low conservation value, and can use water from salt aquifers that is not useful for agriculture or drinking.[84][109] Algae can also grow on the surface of the ocean in bags or floating screens.[110] Thus microalgae could provide a source of clean energy with little impact on the provisioning of adequate food and water or the conservation of biodiversity.[111] Algae cultivation also requires no external subsidies of insecticides or herbicides, removing any risk of generating associated pesticide waste streams. In addition, algal biofuels are much less toxic, and degrade far more readily than petroleum-based fuels.[112][113][114] However, due to the flammable nature of any combustible fuel, there is potential for some environmental hazards if ignited or spilled, as may occur in a train derailment or a pipeline leak.[115] This hazard is reduced compared to fossil fuels, due to the ability for algal biofuels to be produced in a much more localized manner, and due to the lower toxicity overall, but the hazard is still there nonetheless. Therefore, algal biofuels should be treated in a similar manner to petroleum fuels in transportation and use, with sufficient safety measures in place at all times. 041b061a72


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