Algae Bioethanol – next gen biofuel or niche market?
April 2, 2009
(Tsingtao “green” beer)
Ben Pavlik is a student at Keck Graduate Institute (www.kgi.edu)
Last spring, Reid Snowden and I made concoction. Abhorrent to ingestion, we called our creation “algae beer.” This was done as a independent research project under the guise of one of our professors, and was a great dual introduction to brewing and algal fermentation.
Bioethanol is currently being produced by fermentation of sugars found in plants such as sugarcane and corn. Many social concers have barred the adoption of their future use, so other feedstocks are being considered as substitutes. Algae are one of those feedstocks.
However, algae do not produce as much starch as corn, and do not have firm agricultural practices. However, there is reason to believe that algae will play a role in the future bioethanol market. Why is this so?
Algae are currently “all the rage” when it comes to liquid fuel and biodiesel. This fuel is derived from lipids, or fats within the algae. However, only one possible economically savvy model has been produced (see future post regarding – http://www.itwire.com/content/view/24203/1176/) In order to lower the cost of producing this fuel, other products from algae will have to be processed and sold. Bioethanol is one of those products. Using everything that algae have to offer is the best route towards more favorable economic models for these low-value high-volume products.
Algenol Biofuels has bet that algal ethanol will be a next generation biofuel. They use genetically modified strains which secrete ethanol into their growth media. This fuel is distilled from the closed photobioreactor and concentrated.