With the increasing interest in biodiesel as an alternative fuel for diesel engine cars, further studies are being made in order to discover a means to process such alternative fuels in amounts that will be able to compete with current petroleum based fuels. Unfortunately, biodiesel supply still falls below the increasing demand for it. Partly responsible for this is the insufficient supply of straight and waste vegetable oil needed to convert into biodiesel. And because vegetable oil may not be able to sufficiently supply the demand for biodiesel, other alternative sources are being tapped to accommodate some of the shortfall.
Microscopic algae have come to the attention of many scientists as a probable source of biodiesel. Algae can range from a small single cell to multi-cellular organisms. They are very common in damp places and can usually be found in aquatic environments. Just like plants algae makes use of photosynthesis in order to convert sunlight into chemical energy. What makes algae suitable for biodiesel production is their lipid and fat content.
Different species of algae may contain in between two to 40 percent of lipids or oil in terms of weight. It is this oil content that can be used to produce quality biodiesel. There are many benefits known from processing biodiesel from algae. First of all, algae have rapid growth rates that are seen to be faster than in growing plants such as soy for biodiesel production. Algae can also come up with a high per acre yield in oil compared to other plant sources. Biodiesel produced from algae is highly biodegradable and contains no sulfur so it is seen as cleaner and a more environment friendly fuel source.
Methods are being developed today in order to improve algae cultivation. Over 300 species of algae are seen to be suitable for biodiesel production. With this wealth of oil sources, algae has proven to be a very promising area for further research and development. This is great news and means oils sources for biodiesel production need not depend on terrestrial plant cultivation anymore. Currently, most of the oil being converted into biodiesel still comes from sunflower and rapeseed, with the alcohol used in the process coming from beets, corn and wheat. These plants may take some time to grow and may require the cooperation of the weather in order to produce a good harvest.
Algae on the other hand, can be harvested in a matter of days with the next batch already waiting for harvest in the coming days. As newer technologies are being developed in the cultivation and production of microscopic algae, a new biodiesel source has been discovered. With both technologies coming together, the future of biodiesel production seems very bright indeed.
The time has come for the world to find alternative sources of energy that may be able to supplement or totally replace petroleum as the major source of fuel. We owe it all to trying to preserve and protect the environment. Petroleum based fuels have done their part in trying to pollute our planet. By trying to minimize its use, we can help in trying to hold off further pollution. Biodiesel production is helping in advancing this cause and will minimize the world's reliance on fossil fuels as the main energy source.
With algae seen as the next exciting breakthrough, it will only take time for more people to make use of biodiesel and help make the world a better place to live in.
Matthew runs a site dedicated to the latest news and developments in biodiesel, here you'll find more info about biodiesel algae.