Algae

Algae include cellular and micro-cellular plants that live in water. They conduct photosynthesis just like plants and store various forms of carbon. Algae has the potential to produce energy and other high value bioproducts.

Why algae?

  • Algae can be grown on non-productive land
  • Utilize waste CO2 streams (CO2 sequestration), which reduces global warming
  • Algae utilizes nutrients in agricultural and municipal waste water and serves as a water treatment agent
  • Non-food resources are used to produce it
  • There is much greater Potential productivity than their terrestrial cousins

Table 1. Compartive productivity of selected biofuel crops.

Crop

Productivity
(Ton/ha.year)

Energy
(GJ/ha.year)

Wheat (seed + straw)

11

170

Miscanthus

16

270

Switchgrass

10

180

Microalgae (optimized)

60

1200

Microalgae (Theoretical)

120

2400

Algae has the potential for a wide range of value added energy and chemicals.  This diversity in products is why algae has garnered so much attention in the news recently.  Typically, people associate algae with production of biodiesel, but there are species that can be used to produce ethanol, hydrocarbons, fertilizer, proteins and other high value chemicals.

Figure 1. There are many species of algae that can create a diverse portfolio of products.

Diagram of potential algae products.

Links

Algal Biofuels - US DOE Factsheet - PDF (0.6 MB)

The Potential of Biofuels from Algae - NREL Presentation - PDF (1.0 MB)

A Look Back at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Aquatic Species Program—Biodiesel from Algae - PDF (3.6 MB)

Algae as a Biodiesel Feedstock: A Feasibility Assessment (PDF 1.4 MB)

Source: Liao, W. and Liu, S., Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering, Michigan State University.