Tuesday 27 August 2013

ALGAE FUEL-A New Renewable Resource as Biofuel

Energy means as one’s ability to do work, which can neither created nor destroyed. It only transforms from one form to another. All the forms of energy come under two Category, i.e. Kinetic Energy & Potential Energy.

Kinetic Energy is defined as “the energy in the form of motion”, where as Potential Energy is defined as “the energy of a particle or system of particles by virtue of its position or condition”. It is called as Potential Energy as it can be converted to other forms of energy, ex-: Kinetic Energy. Fuel produces Heat comes under potential energy. 

Fuel are the materials that store Potential Energy. Two types of Fuel sources are there, Fossil Fuel & Renewable Fuel. Algae Fuel is one of such Renewable Fuel resource.

What is Algae Fuel?

Algae Fuel is a Renewable, Biofuel resource, which is produced from Algae. It is an alternative options to limited Fossil Fuel that uses algae as its source of production. Algae are microorganisms that are usually harvested through open-pond growing, a process of growing organisms in sunny areas for maximum growth.

Micro Algae

Certain types of algae contain natural oils that can be readily distilled into a vegetable oil or a number of petroleum-like products that could serve as drop-in replacements for gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel.
Algae fuel is a very good alternative for the standard crop biofuel like Soy & Canola. Also up to 70% biomass of algae is usable oil.

Presently the ongoing demand for a cleaner, greener & environment friendly biofuel scientists have been looking forward for more research on this biofuel from: Algae. Alga (or its plural, algae) may be the miracle element in the search for a more environmentally-friendly, mass-produced product that can be converted into fuel.

 As it can grow naturally all over the world. Under optimal conditions, it can be grown in massive, almost limitless, amounts. Due to this by harnessing biofuel from algae production, scientists seek to produce algal biofuel on a large-scale for use as a transportation fuel.

Need for Algae Fuel?

Present world facing with two highly concerned & alarming major issues of rapid consumption of limited Fossil Fuel & Environmental Degradation because of this rapid consumption of Fossil Fuel.

Also the cost the cost for fossil fuel have especially crude oil, have skyrocketed and global consumption of fossil fuels continues to rise one can project that recent rates of crude oil consumption will exhaust the proved world reserves in approximately 40 years.

So the need 7 popularity for sustainable alternative fuels has recently drawn greater public attention & the evolution of biofuel production, especially biodiesel from microalgae.

Most importantly, they yield more oil per acre (7 to 31 times) than other biomass feed stocks. In fact, it produces up to 30 times more oil per unit of land compared to oilseed crops like palm and soy.

Algae can produce up to 300 times more oil per unit area than conventional crops such as rapeseed, palms, soybeans, or jatropha.

While there currently is no significant production of algae for biofuel, but several thousand tons are farmed commercially each year.  These algae are used for nutra-ceuticals, food additives or nutritional supplements.  Several commonly cultivated species of microalgae include Spirulina, Chlorella, Dunaliella and Haematococcus.

As algae have a very short harvesting cycle of 1–10 days, their cultivation permits several harvests in a very short time span. They can grow on land unsuitable for other established crops, for instance: arid land, land with excessively saline soil, and drought-stricken land. This minimizes the issue of taking away pieces of land for the cultivation of algae.

Basically there are two systems for microalgae production:  Photobioreactors and Open Ponds.

Photobioreactors: these are closed, self-contained systems in which nutrient rich water containing algae are pumped into plastic or borosilicate tubes known as “bioreactors and are exposed to Sunlight. So these bioreactors are called as photobioreactors.
This systems is more prevalent, primarily as they are well suited to small-scale production.  They are most commonly used by government and university labs, and small projects for research and demonstration purposes.
Though it is costlier as compared to Open Ponds but yields in higher productivity & control.

Open Ponds: however, most large-scale, commercial microalgae biomass production is done in open ponds. This is generally preferred for cultivating algae with high oil content. But the main disadvantage of this system is that it is less secure and vulnerable to viral infection.                                                              

Open Pond Cultivation

Following are the several factors which affects the Algae cultivation.

·         Climate: algae cultivation requires ample sunlight. Cold Weather reduces the production. Similarly, the Overcast days reduces sunlight, there by the production.
·         Nutrients: nutrients like Nitrogen & Silicate also affects the cultivation. Nitrogen aids in cell division whereas Silicate aids in cell wall production. So by depleting these two nutrients it results in an increase in oil to mass ratio.
·         CO2: CO2 increases the production rate. Typically, about 1.8 tons of CO2 will be utilized per ton of algal biomass (dry) produced, though this varies with algae species.
·         Waste Water: sufficient waste water must be there for higher productivity. But it should be processed before use for algae cultivation else it may create viral infection.

·         High and rapid growth of algae. Certain species of algae can be harvested daily.
·         A higher per acre yield (approx. 7 to 31 times more than the next best crop- Palm Oil).
·         Algae biofuel contains no Sulphur, is non-toxic and is highly bio-degradable.
·         Inherently renewable and a good replacement for liquid Fossil fuel like Petrol.
·         Absorbs CO2 as they grow, so they could be used to capture CO2 from power stations, industrial plant & vehicles and thereby reduces the content of CO2 in atmosphere and also the risk of global warming.
·         Can be cultivated in any land.

·         Needs suitable temperature and ample sunlight.
·         Requires sufficient amount of waste water.
·         Requires rich CO2 content.
·         High capital costs in the systems used to cultivate algae, harvest it, and extract its oil.

FUTURE of Algae Fuel:

Algae-based bio-fuel is a promising energy source that is in the latter stages of development. A number of issues related to the ultimate cost of the product need to be resolved, but there is a good deal of research money going into this as production is beginning to scale up.

Country like India, consumes crude oil at a rate far above its production rate, leaving it whole dependent on foreign oil supplies. With an estimated 70% of petroleum being used by automobiles, developing liquid alternative fuels usable in vehicles is vital, making biofuels an attractive option.

Therefore, in the future, as scientists seeking more research on minimizing the costs and thereby maximizing the benefits of algal production, algal biofuel as it may see a rapid growth in development. Even though there are some disadvantages with algae-based biofuel as opposed to conventional biofuel sources, algae-based biofuel offers a promising future to reducing the high cost and the dependency on fossil fuels and a clean and green environment.