These species possess unique characteristics of sequestering long-chain liquid hydrocarbon to the Extracellular Matrix to afford buyoancy.
Its been reported that these species contain about 30-40% of Hydrocarbon on a dry weight basis.
Botryococcus braunii produce phenotopically distinct 'races' or 'isolates', A,B and L. These isolates are distinct from each other based on the type of oil they produce.
Of importance, Race B are Isoprenoid compounds termed 'Botryococcenes', which are a very promising source of Alternative Biofuel.
The process of converting these Botryoccoccenes to fuel is through Caustic Hydrolysis, and they are suitable for internal combustion engine.They play a key role as significant Biofuel.
Extensive Research are still going on to find the genes involved in the metabolic pathway responsible for Hydrocarbon Synthesis. Many in the field of Renewable Energy hope that Algae Biofuel production reduces the amount of green house gases in the Atmosphere and very Eco friendly too.
But the conclusions are vague and the Reseachers at CSU who are mechanical engineering professors,Anthony Marchese and Azer Yalin are on a mission to find out exactly what gases are emitted when algae oil burns.
"What are the consequences if we were to suddenly go from zero to 20 billion gallons of algae-based biofuel per year over the next 20 years?" Marchese said. "Are there going to be any consequences that we may not have thought about? Recent history is littered with examples of where we've moved too quickly with the technology without understanding the risks."
Marchese and Yalin have received a $325,000 National Science Foundation grant to conduct a study of emissions from algae-based biofuels, during which they'll look at how pollutants are formed when the fuel burns.
At the heart of the CSU study is gaining an understanding of how nitrogen oxides, known as "NOx" emissions, are produced from biofuel.
"There is a lack of understanding of the chemistry behind NOx and soot formation from biodiesel in general," Yalin said. "Algae-based biodiesel is unique and has a different chemical structure than feedstocks like soybeans, so we're building several experiments to focus on the NOx production and soot as well. In diesel engines, NOx and soot are still a major concern."
Marchese said his team already has studied how algae-based biodiesel combusts in engines, and researchers detected lower levels of NOx emissions than from other biofuels. The use of fossil fuels is now widely accepted as unsustainable due to depleting resources and the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the environment that have already exceeded the dangerously high threshold of 450 ppm CO2-e. To achieve environmental and economic sustainability, fuel production processes are required that are not only renewable, but also capable of sequestering atmospheric CO2.
Currently, nearly all renewable energy sources (e.g. hydroelectric, solar, wind, tidal, geothermal) target the electricity market, while fuels make up a much larger share of the global energy demand (∼66%).
Biofuels are therefore rapidly being developed.
Second generation microalgal systems have the advantage that they can produce a wide range of feedstocks for the production of biodiesel, bioethanol, biomethane and biohydrogen. Biodiesel is currently produced from oil synthesized by conventional fuel crops that harvest the sun's energy and store it as chemical energy. This presents a route for renewable and carbon-neutral fuel production. However, current supplies from oil crops and animal fats account for only approximately 0.3% of the current demand for transport fuels. Increasing biofuel production on arable land could have severe consequences for global food supply.
In contrast, producing biodiesel from algae is widely regarded as one of the most efficient ways of generating biofuels and also appears to represent the only current renewable source of oil that could meet the global demand for transport fuels. The main advantages of second generation microalgal systems are that they:
(1) Have a higher photon conversion efficiency (as evidenced by increased biomass yields per hectare)
(2) Can be harvested batch-wise nearly all-year-round, providing a reliable and continuous supply of oil
(3) Can utilize salt and waste water streams, thereby greatly reducing freshwater use
(4) Can couple CO2-neutral fuel production with CO2 sequestration
(5) Produce non-toxic and highly biodegradable biofuels. Current limitations exist mainly in the harvesting process and in the supply of CO2 for high efficiency production. A team of University of Nebraska-Lincoln researchers is working to extract oil from that sticky green stuff that gums up boat motors and fishing lines. Then they'll study the feasibility of using it as a biofuel.
They chose the Greenhouse complex at the Beadle Center into an algae biofuels research facility.
They have begun growing algae in small containers and expect soon to begin growing it in 5-foot-long bags and, eventually, in small, oblong pools called raceways.
"It's an exciting time," said Jim Van Etten, a professor in plant pathology. "It wouldn't surprise me if 10 or 20 years from now, 10 or 20 percent of the liquid biofuels could come from algae. There's a lot of advantages to algae."
A $1.9 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy sparked the project, said Paul Black, a lipid biochemist who's part of the UNL team.
The team plans to apply for additional federal funding in the coming months. UNL is partnering with other universities and private companies like Sapphire Energy, a renewable fuels corporation, to conduct its research.
The team also is looking at seeking funding from larger corporations such as ExxonMobil and Chevron that have dedicated funds for renewable fuels research.
With at least 200,000 different algae, the team is examining existing algae for possible use in biofuel production and working to genetically modify it to produce the most lipids possible for conversion to fuel. That genetic engineering has involved looking at viruses that affect algae to discover possible genetic triggers that might produce better algae.
However, little has been done toward genetic modifying or breeding algae strains to improve them.
"That work is just now beginning," said Don Weeks, a UNL biochemistry professor and member of the team. "In the long term, there's quite a great deal of enthusiasm and confidence that algae can be produced that will be much more productive than present strains."
The team also is searching for the most cost-effective methods for extracting lipids to produce biofuel. Now, it would cost $10 to $30 a gallon to produce algal biodiesel.
One method they are examining is using viruses to break down algal cell walls.
"It's clear that might be helpful for extracting lipids from algae on a large scale," Van Etten said
UNL is positioned to be a leader in algae research because it has renowned scientists in the areas of algal virology, algal molecular biology, lipid biochemistry and plant engineering, Black said.
The question now is if the efforts taken by the UNL team along with their innovative ideas would create a breakthrough in the Algae fuel Industry? Now it has been the UK's turn to focus on Algae Biodiesel on a very large scale with the Carbon Trust Initiative.
The Carbon Trust has announced plans to take on the world in the global race to develop a sustainable, cost-effective biofuel from algae.
The "dream team" of eleven leading UK institutions was unveiled who will work together with the Carbon Trust to find a winning formula for cultivating 70 billion litres of algae biofuel a year by 2030.
Starting from first principles of agriculture, thousands of strains of algae will be screened to find the winning few that can produce large quantities of a substance similar to vegetable oil.
Additional research will develop methods for enabling large-scale production in algae ponds and next year the Carbon Trust plans to start construction of a pilot demonstration plant in an equatorial region where algae are most productive.
With costs of algae biodiesel currently estimated to be approximately $5-$10 a litre, Carbon Trust is focussing on more cost-effective production methods to ultimately bring the cost down to less than $1 a litre.
Launching Europe's most significant public initiative into algae biofuels, Tom Delay chief executive of the Carbon Trust, said: "We have pulled together a dream team of over 70 UK algae scientists who have the expert knowledge to turn algae into a British biofuel success story.
The Carbon Trust is investing ?8 million over 3 years into the projects using funding from the Department for Transport and the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC).
Those universities and institutions selected to conduct the research are:
- University of Coventry
- London Queen Mary
- University of Manchester
- University of Newcastle (Supported on one project by Critical Processes Ltd)
- Plymouth Marine Laboratory (PML)
- Scottish Association for Marine Science
- University of Sheffield
- University of Southampton
- University of Swansea (Supported by Bangor University and PML)
The research projects address five key challenges identified by the Carbon Trust:
1. Isolation and screening of algae strains
2. Maximising solar conversion efficiency
3. Achieving both high oil content and high productivity
4. Sustained algae cultivation in open ponds
5. Design & engineering of cost effective production systems Aurora Biofuels, a startup that cultivates algae to produce biodiesel, has just landed $15 million in a third round of venture funding. But it has yet to overcome the big hurdle standing between algae and the mass market scale.
Aurora will use the new money to commercialize its fuels, but doesn't plan to come to market until 2011 or 2012, as Earth2Tech points out. With $40 million in capital raised, it seems to have enough runway to get it there, but then what? It says it plans to build fuel-producing plants near its algae farms so that they can feed on and recycle the carbon dioxide produced. But $40 million doesn't seem like enough to make this happen.
Aurora's one argument for why it will win out over its competitors, is that it has bred a strain of algae capable of generating 125 times as much fuel from the same amount of pond scum. If smaller acreages are needed, it can cut its costs by as much as half, and the company will be able to offer its fuel for cheaper as low as $55 a barrel undercutting its rivals and becoming more cost competitive with gasoline.
By comparison, last year at this time, Aurora had just completed an 18-month trial of its pilot plant, and announced development of a second, demonstration-scale facility, which is still underway. That initial pilot was only intended to prove the technology, capable of churning out less than 1,000 gallons of biodiesel a year. It seems like the company has a way to go before its first gallon hits the real-world market. A Kansas State University researcher's work on making the costs of algae oil production more economical is being recognized by the National Science Foundation's Faculty Early Career Development programme.
K-State's Weinqiao "Wayne" Yuan, assistant professor of biological and agricultural engineering, has received a five-year, $400,000 grant through the foundation's CAREER programme for his project, "Multi-scale Structured Solid Careers Enabling Algae Biofuels Manufacturing in the Ocean."
The long-term goal of Yuan's project is to make energy manufacturing from algae economically viable. His vision is to identify the best large solid carriers -- thin sheets of metals or polymers - that oil-rich algae can be grown on for biofuels manufacturing in the ocean. The project also includes determining what surface textures - such as smooth or dimpled -- are best for algae growth through both experimental and theoretical investigations. A researcher at Iowa state university , Martin Spalding, ISU professor of genetics, development and cell biology,has received a $4.37 million grant U.S. Department of Energy to stack traits in algae, specifically, one type of alga, Chlamydomonas, whose genome has already been mapped out.
Spalding hopes stacking Chlamydomonas desirable traits will lead to more oil production and thermal resistance, ultimately developing a desirable feedstock for biodiesel and other renewable fuels production. A team of Argentine researchers from the National Technological University of Mar del Plata (UTN) is working on a research project to produce bio-diesel from marine micro-algae, with the aim of developing economically viable and environmentally sustainable processes.
A fundamental factor of this project centers on the replacement of high-cost raw materials, like carbon dioxide and cultivation items, with the availing of environmental liabilities like industrial emissions and sewage mud,the university informed.
Micro-algae has certain advantages like it does not restrict human food consumption and fresh water is not used, but rather sea water, which cools the equipment of a large factory near the location where the project is developed.Also the yield per hectare per year is 8000 litres of oil the scientists confirmed.
During the development of the project, which began in 2008, a species of very productive micro-algae with high oil content was adapted to local conditions and was cultivated in pools of up to 2,000 litres during the four seasons of the year.
The researchers emphasise that they reached compatible cellular densities with its mass production and the micro-algae were separated satisfactorily from the cultivation water by means of flocculation and centrifugation.
In addition, they extracted the total oil content and determined by means of gaseous chromatography that the oil obtained is apt for bio-diesel production (FIS) Oils from the green algae Botryococcus braunii can be readily detected in petroleum deposits and coal deposits suggesting that B. braunii has been a contributor to developing these deposits and may be the major contributor, said Dr. Timothy Devarenne, AgriLife Research scientist with the Texas A&M University department of biochemistry and biophysics.This means that we are already using these oils to produce gasoline from petroleum.
B. braunii is a prime candidate for biofuel production because some races of the green algae typically accumulate hydrocarbons from to 30 percent to 40 percent of their dry weight, and are capable of obtaining hydrocarbon contents up to 86 percent of their dry weight.
Devarenne is part of a team comprised of other scientists with AgriLife Research, graduate student Taylor L. Weiss, Texas A&M department of biochemistry and biophysics; Dr. J. Spencer Johnston, Texas A&M department of entomology; Joe Chappell, University of Kentucky department of plant and soil sciences; and Shigeru Okada, the University of Tokyo graduate school of agricultural and life sciences.
Without understanding how the cellular machinery of a given algae works on the molecular level, it wont be possible to improve characteristics such as oil production, faster growth rates or increased photosynthesis, Devarenne said.
Like most green algae, B. braunii is capable of producing great amounts of hydrocarbon oils in a very small land area.
B. braunii algae show particular promise not just because of their high production of oil but also because of the type of oil they produce, Devarenne said. While many high-oil-producing algae create vegetable-type oils, the oil from B. braunii, known as botryococcenes, are similar to petroleum.
The fuels derived from B. braunii hydrocarbons are chemically identical to gasoline, diesel and kerosene, Devarenne said.Thus, we do not call them biodiesel or bio-gasoline; they are simply diesel and gasoline. To produce these fuels from B. braunii, the hydrocarbons are processed exactly the same as petroleum is processed and thus generates the exact same fuels. Remember, these B. braunii hydrocarbons are a main constituent of petroleum. So there is no difference other than the millions of years petroleum spent underground.
But, a shortcoming of B. braunii is its relatively slow growth rate. While the algae that produce vegetable-type oils may double their growth every 6 to 12 hours, B. braunii's doubling rate is about four days, he said.
Thus, getting large amounts of oil from B. braunii is more time consuming and thus more costly, Devarenne said.So, by knowing the genome sequence we can possibly identify genes involved in cell division and manipulate them to reduce the doubling rate.
Despite these characteristics and economic potential of algae, only six species of algae have had their genomes fully sequenced and annotated, Devarenne said. And B. braunii is not one of the six.
Devarenne and his colleagues have done some of the groundwork in better understanding B. braunii and sequencing its genome.
The researchers believe that once the entire genome of Botryococcus braunii is sequenced, the potential role of this species can be utilised to make it an ideal source for Biofuel production.