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VCU’s department of biology began a study using algae as biofuel this summer. The project received $40,000 in funding from the Virginia Coastal Energy Research Consortium, as well as $20,000 from VCU. VCU’s study began this summer and is expected to be completed by June 2010.
Professor Paul Bukaveckas, who specializes in algae and holds a doctorate in ecology and evolutionary biology, is the primary investigator of the VCU study. Bukaveckas explained why algae biofuel is preferred over ethanol.
Amber Taylor, a bioinformatics and geonomics major with a minor in environmental studies, conducted her own research and discovered various algae types secrete different materials to produce various biofuels. Understanding the operations of algae is important, Taylor said.
“It is found that certain algae, when given more carbon dioxide, yield larger amounts of oil,” Taylor said.
Algal Farms, a local company, has expressed interest in collaborating with VCU in future studies. The company, founded in 2008, is exploring dried algae as a substitute for use in coal power plants, said Director of Operations Gary Ford. Because algae absorbs carbon dioxide, Ford said that it is considered carbon neutral, or carbon negative.
“Emissions (with algae) are a lot cleaner than what you’d get with other fuel sources,” Ford said. According to Ford, they are also testing algae for use in pellet stoves.
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