Archive for February 19th, 2013
Biofuel isn’t a new concept; it’s pretty ancient, in fact. The earliest humans to make their own fire used biofuel when they placed wood, dung, grass and other distinctly organic fuels. Biodiesel, a distinctly more modern and complicated prospect, isn’t new, either. It’s a little known fact that Rudolf Diesel, the German inventor of the diesel engine, originally designed his prototype engine to run on peanut oil. It wasn’t until the Industrial Revolution that large-scale fossil-fuel oils became the blood of industry.
As we approach a point of peak oil — the point at which fossil fuels become scarcer and more expensive (and some argue that we’ve already passed that point) — the interest in biodiesel has been revived. Producing fuel from food products, however, has been morally controversial from the beginning. As the planet’s population and demand for food grows, it becomes more unconscionable for the wealthier nations to waste food products like corn, soy, sugar cane, and rapeseed, as well as food cultivation space, on filling their gas tanks.
To mitigate wasted food and wasted land, in recent decades, there has been rising interest in cultivating biofuel from algae. To pursue a better promise of low-cost, scalable, green and clean biodiesel, research organizations in institutions both private and public have sunk a lot of time and money into algae research in an effort to advance a technology that could produce transportation fuel on a large scale. Read the rest of this entry »