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Could algae be the new biofuel?

Tomorrow’s combustion engines may be fuelled by algae, because it’s fast-growing and about50 per cent of its weight is oil. The oil can then be used to makegreen diesel for cars.

The trend to electric and hybrid cars is all very well but the ideal solution would be to have a non-polluting fuel that could use existing engine technologies, rather than create new systems that need to be developed from scratch.

With more than 100 years of experience with combustion engine development. the car industry is rather good at it so the ideal solution would be to develop new non-polluting fuels to use with these engines.

Biofuels have been created with corn and sugar oil, particularly in Brazil, but it was found that land used for growing food was being diverted to producing biofuel which is less than ideal to say the least.

It may be that by the time our children are buying family cars they’ll be driving electric cars in cities but using combustion powered cars for longer journeys.

Yet rather than polluting tomorrow’s combustion engines may be fuelled by something far greener.
Literally. Tiny microscopic organisms may be the answer. Algae has the
potential to be such a green fuel because it’s fast growing and about
50 per cent of its weight is oil. The oil can then be used to make
green diesel for cars.

You’ll remember algae as the scum on the garden pond as a kid — it’s also used as a foodstuff, in fact the Aztecs used to eat it. Scientists are working out ways to grow it in large enough quantities and one system involves growing algae vertically so that as much of it as possible is exposed to sunlight in the smallest possible space, maximising yield.

What’s more as algae — like other plants — needs CO2 to photosynthesise, industrial algae production could improve air quality too in the process.

Different algaes may yet produce different fuels for different purposes and though we're a way away from widespread production if such production proves possible and cheap enough, converting conventional engines to run on its green diesel should be straightforward.

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