Will Micro-Algae Become a Disruptive Technology?
Just as corn and peanuts stunned the world decades ago with their then-newly discovered multi-beneficial uses and applications, Texas AgriLife Research scientists in Corpus Christi think microalgae holds even more promise.
...There are an estimated 200,000 to 800,000 species of microalgae, microscopic algae that thrive in freshwater and marine systems, Fernandez said.
Of all those species, only 35,000 species have been described, he said. _SD
"We're only starting to scratch the surface of discovering the natural secrets of microalgae and their many potential uses and benefits," he said. "But already it's obvious that farmers will one day soon be growing microalgae on marginal land that won't compete with fertile farmland. They won't even compete for fresh water to grow."
To understand how best to grow it, Fernandez constructed a microalgae physiology laboratory to study how it's affected by temperature, salinity, nutrients, light levels and carbon dioxide.
"We have four bioreactors in which we grow microalgae to determine the basic physiological responses that affect its growth," he said. "We will then integrate these responses into a simulator model, a tool we can use in the management of larger, outdoor systems."
In this study, different strains of microalgae will be evaluated for their capacity to produce large amounts of lipids, or fats, that can then be converted to produce and refine diesel and other biofuels, Fernandez said.
"Along with that, after extracting the lipids from the biomass of microalgae, there is a residue that we are going to analyze for its quality for use as feed for animals, including fish, shrimp or cattle."
Eventually, studies will evaluate the possibility of using the residue as a soil fertilizer.
"There are lots of other potential uses for the residue, but for now our focus is on feed and fertilizer," he said. _SD
If algae are grown in bioreactors, they will likely be oriented vertically -- which will act as an "area multiplier." In other words, far more algae can be grown "per acre" using vertical bioreactors than using horizontal ponds and raceways. The challenge for bioreactors involves using cheap materials which are durable and efficient.
Ponds and raceways can be built on non-productive lands, using brackish, salt, or waste water -- so as not to interfere with either food supplies or potable water supplies. In fact, algae can even purify wastewater to make it drinkable.
Algae can be prolific producers of fuels, foods (for humans), feeds (for animals), fertiliser for soils, cosmetics, chemical feedstocks, nutrient supplements, and many more products and precursors only now being discovered.
It is true that at this point in time, micro-algae cannot produce a biofuel which is price competitive with petro-fuels. But it would be wrong to make future predictions based upon current technologies. Companies which find early profitable niche uses for micro-algae are apt to expand into ever newer, larger, more recently profitable niches over time.
A list of international companies attempting to produce fuels from algae (Wikipedia). The list is not complete by any means.
The world is not what you think it is, because the world is constantly changing -- mostly out of your line of sight. The organisations and persons responsible for keeping you informed about the state of the changing world are generally incompetent boobs, crooks, and cronies -- tunnel-vision locked onto their own agendas and corrupt commitments. You are nothing but pawns on the board to these people: your professors, your government officials, your talking head anchors and pseudo-intellectual journalists and pundits.
Yes, micro-algae can become a disruptive technology, once the infrastructure of growth, production, distribution, and end-use is built.
But the most disruptive "technology" of all is the independent human mind that is ambitious, ever-searching, and willing to work opportunistically toward high-value goals as they come into view.