Researchers at the University of Turku in Finland have announced that they have found a new efficient way to use algae to make biofuel. In the new method, the algae uses solar energy to split water into its constituent elements.
According to the researchers, the green algae uses collected solar energy from photosynthesis to convert water into
oxygen and hydrogen. The former can then be safely released into the atmosphere, while the latter can be collected and used as a zero-emission fuel in fuel cells, certain internal combustion engines, and mixed in with the gas supply in modest proportions. There is also a possibility of enhancing the process further by exposing the algae to strong, short pulses of light, because this may significantly boost the production of hydrogen.
Associate Professor Yagut Allahverdiyeva-Rinne said the new method opened more doors in the quest for new ways to efficiently make biofuels:
“The research provides important information on how to avoid ‘wasting’ solar-driven energy in biomass production and how to apply this energy directly for the production of useful bio-products.”
The new method differs from that of ExxonMobil, the maker of Mobil Unirex N3, and Synthetic Genomics, which have been working together since 2009 to develop a strain of algae capable of producing oil in useable quantities. Unlike hydrogen, this oil can then be used as feedstock for existing refineries and converted into diesel or jet fuel. The companies claim they will be capable of making 10,000 barrels a day of oil this way by 2025.