Friday, May 20, 2005

Biodiesel from algae

The stereotype of biodiesel is that you go down to McDonalds and ask the manager to give you their used fryer grease. You take that grease and process it, and out comes glycerin and diesel. But, it seems, that's not the only way to make biodiesel.

Start-up drills for oil in algae (Published: May 20, 2005, 4:00 AM PDT, By Martin LaMonica, Staff Writer, CNET

Where most people see pond scum, Isaac Berzin sees oil--and a hedge against global warming.

Berzin is the founder and chief technology officer of GreenFuel Technologies, a Cambridge, Mass.-based start-up that has a novel approach to energy and pollution control.

Using technology licensed from a NASA project, GreenFuel builds bioreactors--in the shape of 3-meter-high glass tubes fashioned as a triangle--to grow algae. The algae are fed with sunlight, water and carbon-carrying emissions from power plants. The algae are then harvested and turned into biodiesel fuel.

Yup, good old algae.

What you'd have to do is pick (or genetically engineer) an organism that produces a high quantity of oil in their bodies. Then you grow that organism and harvest it.

And it's interesting to feed these organisms partly off the emissions from regular power plants. It diverts the carbon that would have gone into the atmosphere, and "sequesters" it in these organisms. Of course the end of life for these organisms is to become fuel, so the carbon will again be sent into the atmosphere, depending on where the biodiesel is being sent. Maybe the biodiesel would be burned at a power plant, the emissions from that power plant are already being used to grow biodiesel, and hence you'd have some of the carbon simply cycling through the organisms from which you're growing biodiesel.

Green Fuel Technologies: Using the sun as a free energy source, GreenFuel's proprietary algae bioreactor system recycles up to 86% of NOx and 40% of CO2 from smokestack emissions into renewable clean air biofuels™ competitive with conventional fossil fuel products, generating revenue by decreasing emissions. Clean, renewable, profitable. GreenFuel.