Algae that make biofuels and hydrogen

IMB_Ben_with_algaeAn Australian researcher is leading an international team of scientists developing a clean source of energy from microalgae. The team have developed one algae that not only makes oil for biodiesel production but also generates hydrogen. Commercial hydrogen production uses fossil fuels and produces carbon dioxide.

The discovery is an important achievement for the Solar Biofuels Consortium, 70 researchers led by Assoc. Prof. Ben Hankamer from the Institute for Molecular Bioscience in Brisbane, and Prof. Olaf Kruse and Prof. Clemens Posten from the Universities of Bielefeld and Karlsruhe in Germany.

Algae naturally capture sunlight and store it as biomass which can be used to produce biofuels, feedstock for plastic production and high-value products, including medically important molecules. Microalgal systems also have the potential to assist in carbon dioxide capture and storage.

The focus of the consortium is now on enhancing efficiencies, reducing costs and refining pilot plant scale designs to facilitate the development of commercially viable systems.

To grow the algae the group is developing solar-powered bioreactors which can be placed on non-arable land and use much less water than conventional biofuel crops. Many algae varieties can also be grown in salt water, creating sustainable and economic opportunities for Australia.

For more information: Institute for Molecular Bioscience, Ben Hankamer, Tel: +61 (7) 3346 2012, b.hankamer@imb.uq.edu.au, www.solarbiofuels.org

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