Researchers in the United Kingdom are looking at turning a particular strain of algae into biodiesel … and more. This University of Greenwich news release says the school is leading a nearly $14 million international project to get products from the bright pink-orange microalgae Dunaliella found in salt lakes and coastal waters.
The project will build a biorefinery called the ‘D-Factory’ which is going to turn every part of the alga into something useful.
Algae are known for their ability to convert CO2 and sunlight into chemical energy five times faster than crops grown in soil. This particular alga is able to produce up to 80 per cent of its mass as fuel but is currently too expensive to cultivate for fuel alone. However it also produces a range of compounds of great interest in pharmaceutical, cosmetic, nutraceutical and other applications – and this may provide the solution.
Project leader Professor Pat Harvey, from the university’s Faculty of Engineering & Science, explains: “The race is on to develop a broader spectrum of compounds from algae, which can be turned into high-value products including food and medicines.
“If we can make algae biorefineries commercially viable, we will have developed a new industry founded on an environmentally-kind raw material which is also sustainable. The potential is huge.”
Officials say they will have the science to produce sustainable fuel by 2020, if they can get the costs down.
Thirteen research institutions and businesses from eight countries are part of the project.