At the current rate of consumption, it’s not going to take long before we have used up all of what we have become so dependent upon. That is why the world is looking at a new source of energy. A very small and unexpected source that most would not even have considered an option; algae. Using biodiesel fuels harvested from algae is not only helpful for the environment, but is a smarter way to produce alternative energy, save money, create jobs and eliminate America’s dependency on foreign oil. The use of biodiesel fuel has been around since the beginning of the diesel engine. Its inventor, Rudolf Diesel, showcased his invention using peanut oil as the fuel source driving the engine. Diesel stated that “the diesel engine can be fed with vegetable oils and would help considerably in the development of agriculture of the countries which use it" (qtd. in Leduc). The diesel engine was a huge success, but unfortunately, the use of peanut oil was not. The problem with using plant derived oils for fuels is the high viscosity of the oils harvested. These oils don’t burn as completely and “cleanly” as fossil fuels do, so they leave deposits and build up in the engine’s cylinders and fuel injectors. This was part of the reason companies and governments chose to pursue using fossil fuels instead of biodiesel. In addition to cleaner burning, fossil fuels were readily available and cheap during Rudolf’s day. Well, times have changed since the introduction of the combustion engine, and the use of fossil fuels has become increasingly more expensive. That is why biofuels are becoming increasingly more popular. But this is not a new idea. During the late 1970’s the Department of Energy funded research for the development of renewable fuel sources from different algae species. According
to the United States Department of Energy, the main focus of the program, known as the Aquatic Species Program (ASP), was “the production of biodiesel from high lipid-content algae grown in ponds, utilizing waste CO2 from coal fired power plants” (3). The research of algae potential has been ongoing for several years all over the world. These micro-organisms were being studied to see if there was potential for their use as the new fuel source supplying the world’s need for a new alternative energy. For many years algae has been known to be a good source of oil. Depending upon the species of algae, “up to 50% of an algae’s body weight is comprised of oil” (Haag). It is this oil that companies and scientists are desperately trying to harvest for commercial use. The problem however, is in the growing and processing procedures of the algae. Growing algae has primarily been done using huge open pools of water, exposed to the elements, and susceptible to foreign contamination. This method of growing not only takes up huge amounts of water, but also takes much more time to grow. Algae being allowed to take it’s time growing, and having the possibility of foreign contaminants being introduced into its environment, has therefore led to the development of many newer growing systems. Developers understand that algae only needs sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide to grow. By completely enclosing the environment algae is grown in, and by introducing these elements, algae growth is not only sped up dramatically, but the oil yield percentage increases significantly as well. Due to the elimination of foreign contamination inhibiting algae growth, these new growing systems can produce big numbers in terms of algae oil production. In addition, the amount of water and land needed to produce the algae is reduced to only a fraction of what was previously needed for earlier growing methods. In the past, growing methods took a long time and didn’t yield a high percentage of oil. Now, with the newer technologies of growing, algae Jenson 3
can be produced in huge amounts in just a matter of days, or even hours. “Given the right conditions, algae can...