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Biofuels: Algae Biodiesel

Updated on October 30, 2012

Just the basics

We all know what algae is right? It's that stuff that grows in the water and ... no, wait, it's an animal ... no, maybe it's a plant. Okay, so maybe we don't know what it is after all. But we know that we keep hearing about it hear and there. Most recently, we've been hearing about algae that is harvested for the biodiesel creation. So we know that it's good for the environment. Or something like that, right?

Here are the basics of algae and algae biodiesel:

Here are two definitions of algae, one which gives you the scientific details and one that's a little less technical which helps you figure out just what we're talking about in the real world:

  • "Chiefly aquatic, eucaryotic one-celled or multicellular plants without true stems, roots and leaves, that are typically autotrophic, photosynthetic, and contain chlorophyll. Algae are not typically found in groundwater. They also may be attached to structures, rocks or other submerged surfaces. They are food for fish and small aquatic animals. Excess algal growths can impart tastes and odors to potable water. Algae produce oxygen during sunlight hours and use oxygen during the night hours. Their biological activities appreciably affect the pH and dissolved oxygen of the water." - Environmental Health Center Glossary

  • "Algae are classified as plants, although they share many characteristics with monerans (fungus). It is that pesky green stuff that many hobbyists try to avoid. It may become slimy over time and will grow in fresh or marine water." - Aqualink glossary

Okay, so now we know what algae is, but what is algae biodiesel?

Algae can actually be farmed for a variety of uses (a process which is known as algaculture) and one of those uses is the creation of biodiesel. Basically, algae can be used to for oil production and so is of great interest to environmentally concerned researchers who know that our current oil supply is finite. Because algae grows relatively quickly, it might be a terrific source of diesel in the future.

So why aren't we already seeing algae biodiesel as an option for getting our cars to go?

Algae biodiesel is something which is still being explored. There are difficulties which include finding cost-effective ways to harvest enough algae to make regular use of algae biodiesel an option. But it is something which is being researched at the current time.

As we continue to becoming increasingly aware of the need to find alternative fuel sources, we must look at creative options wherever we can find them. We might not know exactly what algae is, but even the average person has a basic idea. And as time goes on, we just might see the average person having a working knowledge of algae biodiesel as well!


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    Ron Adamowicz 8 years ago

    Very nice, I need all the info on biodiesel algae you have.

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    Jimmy 9 years ago

    If I had to rank all the types of alternative fuels that can powervehicles, I would definitely consider algae biodiesel the mostpromising for the long term. Hydrogen, cellulosic ethanol and otherssimply can't compare to the efficiency, practicality andsustainability of algae biodiesel. I recently was very enlightenedby this site: <a href=""> </a> . I am verysurprised at how many companies are developing the technology and howclose they are to commercialization.