By Guest Blogger Wilson Yeo
Biodiesel is fast emerging as a viable option in powering vehicles as reducing the impact of anthropogenic activities on the environment takes center stage.
Together with bioethanol and biogas, biodiesel form part of the biomass fuels that could form one of the array of replacements for fossil fuels as en energy source for powering vehicles.
Major producers of biodiesel like Brazil and United States, are promoting their usage by selling biodiesel/petroleum diesel blends and providing incentives in an effort to reduce the demand on diesel. Advocators also include celebrities like Willie Nelson and Daryl Hannah who have since jumped onto the bandwagon by producing biodiesel and more recently vehicles powered by biodiesel.
However in a bid to match this increasing demand of biodiesel in the world, some farmers have switched to growing bioenergy crops like soybeans and palm instead of food crops. These have led to a decrease in the supply of food and other related products causing problems like a spike in food prices, a drop in food aid and in general leading to global hunger.
One way to overcome this problem will be to utilise alternative sources of biodiesel production. One potential source worth considering will be microalgae. Algae have the potential to produce the feedstock for a number of other transportation fuels like gasoline and even jet fuel. Besides that, algae also possess advantages like a faster growth rate, can be harvested daily, not limited by land and water suitability and most importantly they do not disrupt the production of food crops. Some species of algae that have been worked on include Nannochloropsis sp, Spirulina sp and Chlorella sp. Currently there is extensive research being carried out in NREL with guidelines provided to aid researchers in their analysis of their algal feedstock though studies have shown that one way to increase the proportion of oil for some algal species can be done via modification of their growth conditions.
All this ongoing research shows the potential in developing a microalgae-based technology for biodiesel production to improve the environment and help the world to gradually reduce its unhealthy dependency on petroleum and other fossil fuels.
About the author
Wilson Yeo is a marine researcher who does research on phytoplankton and plus an advocate of sustainable living and green energy from Green Energy Helps.