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Turning Algae into Fuel


Converting algae to biofuel could be a sustainable solution to the need for liquid fuel in the United States, according to U-M researchers. Scientists in the chemical engineering department are working to create an effective method for converting the plant, which can be harvested continuously and grown in any water condition.

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One thought on “Turning Algae into Fuel

  1. The video contains an estimate that a land area about the size of New Mexico would be needed to supply 100% of the liquid fuel needs of the country via algae ponds. That estimate, if accurate, is semi-absurd. There is no way we will ever convert such a huge land area to algae ponds.
    Contrast that land area estimate with the estimate of the land area needed to supply 100% of the energy needs of the entire country (electrical, transportation, raw process heat, etc.); based on standard photovoltaic solar panels operating at 10% efficiency. The land area required is far less than 10% of the estimate in the video; and those PV panels supply not just transportation needs, but all other energy needs as well. The reason why this is true is that the efficiency of conversion for natural photosynthesis is extremely small – it is something like one tenth of one percent (that’s a rough guess). PV panels achieve roughly 15% conversion efficiency, and can therefore supply far larger amounts of raw power per unit land area than plant based schemes can achieve. True, the conversion of electrical energy to other forms like liquid fuels exacts an additional efficiency penalty, but the advantages of PV versus algae are far too large to ignore.

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