To begin with, you might want to know what algae is. Isn’t it that slimy stuff you find at the top of your pool after a few hot summer days? Or the gooey green floating around your goldfish pond? Yes it is, and it turns out to have some interesting abilities and benefits. True, some algae is toxic, like blue green algae, which produces neurotoxins. But most are harmless and potentially useful.
Algae farming, or algaculture, entails the same general principles as farming corn or soybeans. One of the interesting things about this stuff is that it looks like a plant and acts like a plant, but it is a single cell organism, with photosynthetic abilities. It is able to change sunlight to chemical energy. This energy comes in the form of oil similar to vegetable oil. Sound familiar? As you know, vegetable oil can be used to make fuel; in this case, biodiesel.
Another interesting thing about algae is that it doesn’t take much space to grow it. It would take the area of a football field for corn or soybean to produce the same amount of oil that algae can produce in the area of a two-car garage. In addition, it grows at a rapid rate, producing oil 30 times faster than conventional biofuel products like soybeans.
Algae farms can be built on coastal land otherwise not suitable for regular farming. The hard part is controlling and harvesting the algae. Instead of an open pond being used, photobioreactors are used. During the process, nutrient laden water is pumped through plastic tubes while it is exposed to sunlight. This process makes storage and recycling easier as well.
For more information on how effective algae farming can be and the impact it may have on our future, go to Algae System Transforms Greenhouse Emissions into Green Fuel and read about an inventor, Isaac Berzin, founder and chief technology officer of GreenFuel Technologies, Corp.