Thefuel from algaerepresents an answer to the problems related to first generation fuels. First generation biofuels open up issues such as land consumption, food scarcity and an energy balance that is not always positive with harmful impacts on the environment. THEbiofuelsof the first generation have also received numerous criticisms from NGOs such as Oxfarm which has drawn attention to the consequent phenomenon ofland grabbing.
To meet environmental needs and solve problems related to the production ofbiofuelsstarting from food sources, the scientific landscape has moved in a different direction: to producefuelfrom other secondary sources. From here we speak offuel from algae up to thebiodieselproduced from bacterial colonies placed in particular reactors.
Fuel from algae
Since food crops are also used for the production of energy (see the case of the price increase ofcornin the US), the balance of the agro-food industry is threatened and millions of people are at risk of famine. The crops ofalgaecould be a valid alternative to corn and cereal crops for the production offuel;in this context there is no lack of studies and applications, see the articles:
Biodiesel from algae
Micro bubbles for biofuels from algae
A new application comes from Berlin and from the scientists of the Technische Universität München (TUM) who have developed a system that is able to reproduce, in an artificial way, all types of lights. Scientists estimate that there are over 50,000 species ofalgaeand cyanobacteria, of these only 5,000 are known and of this small percentage, there are 10 types ofalgaehave been used successfully for the commercial production offuel.
Thealgaethey have no space or nutritional needs, they grow faster than soybean or corn plants and do not require fertile soil or pesticides.
Upon closer examination of the species ofalgaeoccurring in nature, the TUM scientists selected the most promising ones for the production offuel. Manyalgaegive rise to intermediate chemicals that allow the production of protein mass and fats, while the protein mass can be used to feed livestock in the agri-food industry, fats can be converted intobiofuel.
The complexity ofalgaeit is such that even within a single species, the ability to produce specific compounds varies widely in relation to the external environment. This is why the work of the TUM team was very complex. The researchers, collaborating with the Berlin-based company FUTURELED GmbH, were able to develop a combination of light with environments that guarantee the production offuel from algaewith excellent yields.
The system uses LED lights that are able to simulate the natural spectrum of sunlight. LEDs provide light intensities with wavelengths between 400 and 800 nanometers and a radiation intensity of 1,000 watts per square meter with a distribution pattern that is very close to that of natural light. The spectral bandwidth of the LEDs has been specifically set to activate those so-called "molecular switches" that control the growth ofalgae.
With these premises, ifuels from algaethey have a guaranteed and even more promising future.