Algae Biofuel – A Promising Biofuel For The Future
Algae biofuel is currently emerging as one of the potentially promising biofuels in recent stages of development.
Petroleum is believed to have developed from kerogen, which is simply converted to an oily substance under the influences of temperature and pressure. Kerogen is formed from biodegradable compounds, bacteria, plankton, and plant material through chemical and biochemical reactions: algae. Because of this, it is widely believed that algae can be converted to a petroleum-like substance. This would be a developed algae biofuel.
The advantages of an algae biofuel should be evident to almost everyone. Biofuels that can replace fossil fuels could end our dependency on the depletion of our planet’s natural resources and significantly reduce our carbon footprint on the planet. With the development of alternatives like algae biofuel, air pollution resultant from burning fossil fuels and energy crises resultant from the exhaustion of natural resources would no longer present such an imminent theat to our people and the world we live in.
Harvesting algae to manufacture algae biofuel can be fairly intricate. Gathering algae involves the process of separating it from its growing medium. The algae must then be dried and processed into the desired product. Since there are different kinds of algae, strains particular to developing algae biofuel must be designated and developed for harvesting. The drying of algae is centrally important to the harvesting process, as it retains high water content. Some processes currently under use for harvesting algae are centrifugation, flocculation, froth floatation, and micro screening.
Oil extraction from algae is a debated concept because it is currently quite costly. While in theory it is all quite simple – harvest the algae and remove the oil from it – the reality is that the processes are expensive. The two basic methods of extracting oil for algae biofuel are the mechanical method and the chemical method.
The environmental effects of extracting oil from algae are, themselves, a topic of hot debate since many see them as not being eco-friendly. The concerns with mechanical extraction are that the drying process is extremely energy intensive and supercritical extraction depends on high-pressure mechanics that are also energy intensive. The chemical process involves solvents that present health and environmental risk factors. Other methods are being developed to reduce the environmental concerns, but so far they are so costly as to make mass production almost impractical.
So, while algae biofuel is one of the most potentially promising of the biofuel alternatives currently being researched, it is far from reaching a stage where its process and progress is anywhere near on the horizon. At this point in time there are many issues to be straightened out, from environmental effects to cost challenges.
However, far from leaving us disappointed, this situation only underscores the vital need to devote our resources and expertise to the challenges of developing biofuels and other alternatives to our current fossil fuel dependency. While the advance in creating biofuels may now be riddled with challenge, we must turn our attention and resources to overcoming these challenges and creating biofuel alternatives for future generations. Setbacks only mean that we must work that much harder in order to make green energy sources like algae biofuel a reality in our lifetime.