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Algae For Oil

Cultivating algae to increase biofuel production.

By Lea Cristina Macaraig (Ateneo M.S. ECE Student)

reactors.jpg The average consumption of energy in the world per year is approximately 13 trillion watts. Amidst the vigorous efforts of organizations to promote energy conservation, the demand is expected to double by the year 2025, and triple by the end of the century. The increase in demand is attributed mainly to the alarming rise in population and increasing requirements in industrial production (United States Department of Energy, 2005).

Traditional energy sources in the form of fossil fuels are depleting in quantity and are continuing to produce harmful effects to the environment through greenhouse gas byproducts. Today, 80 percent of the world’s energy demand is sustained by fossil fuels. The approximate time span for which fossil fuels can support the world’s demand is quite distressing—155 years from coal, 40 years from oil and 65 years from natural gases (World Resources Institute, 2006).

Failure to address the problems of energy source depletion would dramatically influence the global socioeconomic and environmental state. Three approaches are possible in providing solution to the depletion problem—increasing energy efficiency, reducing energy consumption, and developing alternatives to fossil fuels (WRI, 2006).

Research has been driven to find alternative sources of renewable energy. A reasonably effective alternative source of energy must be able to supply at least 1 to 10 trillion watts of power annually. The requirement must be increased beyond this range if the problem of global warming is to be accounted for (USDOE, 2005). At the Ateneo de Manila University, algae systems are being developed for large scale production that could supply enough natural products for biofuel. Algae systems could prove ideal as the alternative source for renewable energy since they also reduce carbon dioxide emissions through sequestration in photosynthesis.

The study has been focused on finding the ideal photosynthetic wavelength for oil-producing algae species. Preliminary work on the starch-producing algae species Nannochloropsis occulata sp. has proven that certain wavelengths of light affect different stages of algal growth. Work on the quantification of carbon dioxide sequestration and mineral fertilization is also being established with Ateneo’s industry partner Alsons Aquaculture.

Topic revision: r3 - 13 Sep 2008 - 08:15:05 - BearTiu
 
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