Not saying this is the "answer" to fossil fuels, but it is interesting:http://cleantechnica.com/2012/12/28/alg ... -bacteria/
Algae Biofuel Breakthrough Hinges On Common Bacteria
December 28, 2012 Tina Casey
One of the key factors standing between algae biofuel and the real world of market-competitive energy is something that has a lot in common with the common cold, and that is bacteria. The tiny little buggers can interfere with an efficient growth process and they really go to work as soon as algae is harvested, which shortens its shelf life and makes storage and transportation a dicey proposition. However, while a cure for the common cold is still eons away, according to the algae biofuel company OriginOil, a solution to the algae biofuel bacteria problem appears to be close at hand.
A Teeny Tiny Problem for Algae Biofuel
Strength in numbers is the motto of all bacteria, which accounts for why something so small can wreak so much havoc. OriginOil’s Jose Sanchez, who is General Manager of the company’s Algae Division, sums the problem up in a nutshell:
“Bacteria and other invaders feast on the biomass, especially the valuable oils, dramatically reducing the value of the crop within a matter of hours.”
According to Sanchez freshly harvested algae is only stable for about half a day, or about 10 to 12 hours. After that, with a little help from bacteria, it takes on the pungent, fishy smell that signals rot.
The Algae Biofuel Breakthrough
OriginOil believes that it has found an economical solution to the problem, through its proprietary Algae Screen™ process.
OriginOil first developed the system in order to enhance algae growth by inhibiting harmful microbes. Instead of using chemicals, it relies on an electromagnetic pulse. The salvo is powerful enough to kill off bacteria as well as rotifers and ciliates (these are other kinds of microscopic organisms and yes, we had to look those up, too), while leaving the tougher-walled algae alone.
The breakthrough consists in using Algae Screen during the harvesting process as well as during the growth period. OriginOil sent samples to a university team (unnamed in the company’s press release) and the independent lab Pacific Coast Analytical Services, and the results came back with significantly fewer bacterial colonies than conventional harvesting.
Shortcuts to Algae Biofuel
Algae’s ancient pedigree has been powering the fossil fuel industry for generations, so the idea of taking a millions-of-years shortcut to algae fuel is beyond tempting. The trick, of course, is to rev up a very long process into a tidy, cost-effective package.
The obstacles are many but much has been achieved in the past few years. OriginOil, the activities of which we’ve been following at CleanTechnica pretty closely (here, here and here for example) for a while now, is just one of several U.S. companies leading the charge.
The other part of the equation is public sector support, most notoriously in the form of the U.S. Navy’s algae biofuel initiatives, which have been chugging steadily along despite opposition from the anti-biofuel crowd.
The Department of Energy is of course front and center in advancing the algae biofuel cause, most recently with a $15 million grant to establish an algae biofuel test bed in Arizona. NASA has also launched an initiative with long distance space travel in mind that piggybacks algae biofuel production on wastewater, thereby killing two birds with one stone.
Algae Biofuel Makes Strange Bedfellows
One fallout from OriginOil’s breakthrough, according to the company, is that a more efficient process would enable more algae to be grown in a smaller area. That would bring the operation within reach of small farmers and other small-scale entrepreneurs.
With the release of Matt Damon’s new fracking-themed movie Promised Land in mind, small-scale algae farming could help provide distressed rural communities with a new cash crop that does not involve the kind of risk to public health that often attends fossil fuel operations.
Somewhat ironically, OriginOil has found that the separation process it developed for algae farming can serve as an effective treatment for many kind of industrial wastewater, including wastewater from fracking operations.
So they use an EMP pulse to kill off the bacteria and other nasties, while leaving the algae cells intact...neat idea!! I also like that this can be used as an effective treatment for wastewater, including Fracking Wastewater which is high in methane content ( pollutes the groundwater and is very toxic! ). Since USA is so intent on expanding Fracking operations in their own country to "get off the reliance on foreign oil" , this seems like a natural fit...not that I am for fracking in any way whatsoever ( pollutes nearby groundwater and some speculate it also causes earthquakes or microquakes from hollowing out large areas underground etc. ) , if they are going to frack anyways, at least this is a possible method to deal with polluted fracking wastewater... sweet!
Here is another method, using heat with algae to make oil:http://www.ns.umich.edu/new/releases/20 ... e-into-oil
Biofuel breakthrough: Quick cook method turns algae into oil
Published on Oct 31, 2012
Contact Kate McAlpine, (734) 763-4386, email@example.com
or Nicole Casal Moore, (734) 647-7087, firstname.lastname@example.orgANN ARBOR—It looks like Mother Nature was wasting her time with a multimillion-year process to produce crude oil. Michigan Engineering researchers can "pressure-cook" algae for as little as a minute and transform an unprecedented 65 percent of the green slime into biocrude.
"We're trying to mimic the process in nature that forms crude oil with marine organisms," said Phil Savage, an Arthur F. Thurnau professor and a professor of chemical engineering at the University of Michigan.
The findings will be presented Nov. 1 at the 2012 American Institute of Chemical Engineers Annual Meeting in Pittsburgh.
Savage's ocean-going organism of choice is the green marine micro-alga of the genus Nannochloropsis.To make their one-minute biocrude, Savage and Julia Faeth, a doctoral student in Savage's lab, filled a steel pipe connector with 1.5 milliliters of wet algae, capped it and plunged it into 1,100-degree Fahrenheit sand. The small volume ensured that the algae was heated through, but with only a minute to warm up, the algae's temperature should have just grazed the 550-degree mark before the team pulled the reactor back out.
Previously, Savage and his team heated the algae for times ranging from 10 to 90 minutes. They saw their best results, with about half of the algae converted to biocrude, after treating it for 10 to 40 minutes at 570 degrees.
Why are the one-minute results so much better? Savage and Faeth won't be sure until they have done more experiments, but they have some ideas.
"My guess is that the reactions that produce biocrude are actually must faster than previously thought," Savage said.
Faeth suggests that the fast heating might boost the biocrude by keeping unwanted reactions at bay.
"For example, the biocrude might decompose into substances that dissolve in water, and the fast heating rates might discourage that reaction," Faeth said.
The team points out that shorter reaction times mean that the reactors don't have to be as large.
"By reducing the reactor volume, the cost of building a biocrude production plant also decreases," Faeth said, though both she and Savage cautioned that they couldn't say for sure whether the new method is faster and cheaper until the process is further developed.
Current commercial makers of algae-based fuel first dry the algae and then extract the natural oil. But at over $20 per gallon, this fuel is a long way from the gas pump.
"Companies know that that approach is not economical, so they are looking at approaches for using wet algae, as are we," Savage said.
One of the advantages of the wet method is that it doesn't just extract the existing fat from the algae—it also breaks down proteins and carbohydrates. The minute method did this so successfully that the oil contained about 90 percent of the energy in the original algae.
"That result is near the upper bound of what is possible," Savage said.
Before biocrude can be fed into the existing refinery system for petroleum, it needs pre-refining to get rid of the extra oxygen and nitrogen atoms that abound in living things. The Savage lab also is developing better methods for this leg of biofuel production, breaking the record with a biocrude that was 97 percent carbon and hydrogen earlier this year. A paper on this work is currently under review.
Once producing biofuel from algae is economical, researchers estimate that an area the size of New Mexico could provide enough oil to match current U.S. petroleum consumption. And, unlike corn produced for ethanol—which already accounts for half that area—the algae won't need to occupy good farmland, thriving in brackish ponds instead.
The research, "The Effects of Heating Rate and Reaction Time on Hydrothermal Liquefaction of Microalgae," was funded by the Emerging Frontiers in Research and Innovation program of the National Science Foundation. The university is pursuing patent protection for the intellectual property, and is seeking commercialization partners to help bring the technology to market.
Abstract: https://aiche.confex.com/aiche/2012/web ... 80193.html
Savage Lab: http://savageresearchlab.wordpress.com
Sounds like the scientists are really onto something here with turning algae into oil...although a lot more work needs to be done of course...amazing progress so far though...
This is win win...corn can go back to being used for foods, animal feed etc where it is badly needed these days ( instead of using it to make ethanol ) , and algae turned into oil can replace it!
Switchgrass and many other plants can also be used for biofuel:http://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/energy ... ws-promise
BP, Exxon, Shell and all the other major petrochemical companies should be investing HUGELY in this research, after all, they rape us for the price of oil and gas and make billions in profits every single year...time they gave a little back ( research and development ) and put us ( globally ) on track for biofuel mass production and reduction in traditional oil harvesting methods...
Even the Koreans are getting on the biofuel action with their biobutanol research breakthrough! :http://www.arirang.co.kr/News/News_View ... category=5
Updated : December 6, 2012
Korean Scientists Discover Biofuel Breakthrough
Already emerging as a leader in the global energy revolution, biobutonal is of significant interest to researchers as an eco-friendly replacement to gasoline.
When compared to other forms of popular biofuels, biobutanol has been found to have nearly 40 percent more energy per liter than bioethanol, while providing nearly the same amount of power of conventional gasoline.
Due to its many advantages, researchers have been concentrating their efforts on biobutanol technology.
Unlike bioethanol, which commonly requires the breakdown of sugar cane or corn, biobutanol is made from special bacteria.
[Interview : Professor Jang Yu-sin, Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering Dept.
Korea Adv. Institute of Science & Technology ] "We've been able to improve the production of biobutanol from microorganisms through this research. By using large-scale metabolic engineering systems, butane can be produced through hot or cold channels."
The recent breakthrough by Korean scientists has broken down previous barriers with biobutanol production and increased yields of the precious fuel by up to 87 percent.
Through cutting-edge genetic engineering, researchers were able to tweak the biology of certain bacteria to consume simple sugars and digest it into biofuel faster and in greater quantity than ever before.
The new solution is three times faster and is estimated to save manufacturing costs by up to 70 percent.
The environmentally friendly process can be grown easily and produces a fraction of typical energy greenhouse gases.
[Interview : Dr. Seung Do-young, Director
GS-Caltex Research & Technology Institute] "Since [bacteria] strains have now been well-developed, production can start increasing and later on [energy] density can be improved. We're preparing for the first phase of mass production with a pilot phase on the way."
The study was published as a feature article in the prestigious journal of the "American Society for Microbiology."
It may be just the first step towards a truly energy independent future for Korea, but researchers say they're just getting started.
Paul Yi, Arirang News
DEC 06, 2012
And so are the Australians!! :http://www.theaustralian.com.au/higher- ... 6508617037
Biofuel breakthrough creates fuel and food
From: AAP November 02, 2012 12:00AM
A TECHNOLOGY breakthrough by two Australian brothers could offer a solution to the world's insatiable appetite for food and fuel.
Phillip and Geoff Bell have developed a new way to produce ethanol from waste products such as sugar cane, instead of using food crops such as corn.
Not only that, but the leftover yeast used in making the environmentally friendly fuel is then turned into high-quality animal feed.
The researchers created a buzz yesterday when they revealed their findings at the AusBiotech Conference in Melbourne, the largest biotechnology industry gathering in the Asia-Pacific.
AusBiotech chief executive Anna Lavelle said their discovery was of ``global significance'' as it tackled two of the world's biggest issues - future fuel and food supply - in one fell swoop.
"To have the one technology successfully addressing both of these issues simultaneously is very impressive to see,'' Dr Lavelle said. ``This technology deserves to be fully exploited.''
Despite being a source of clean renewable energy, ethanol production is costly and requires huge areas of farmland to grow the food crops needed as biomass.
Dr Lavelle said Australia, unlike the US, had never grown food for fuel and was not likely to begin any time soon.
But Geoff Bell said that was what made this technology so unique.
"We don't take away from the fuel supply, we add to it,'' he said.
Their specially evolved yeast turns useless corn husks and sugar cane into fuel before producing an animal feed that offers more nutrition than soy.
Selling the feed can then offset the cost of producing the ethanol, resulting in a win-win for investors.
Mr Bell says Australia, with its vast wetland areas to the north and unprofitable sugar cane farms, is ideally positioned to take advantage of this technology.
``If you apply our technology to these areas, you're looking at tripling the value per hectare of products from the land,'' he said.
The brothers' company, Microbiogen, financed their research with a $2.5 million grant from the federal government's Australian Renewable Energy Agency and funding from the Department of Energy in the US.
Awesome!! they use useless corn husks ( leftover from processing corn ) and sugar cane to make fuel using specially modified yeast, and the byproduct from this process is used to make high-quality animal feed!! Definitely a win-win...
Big Oil companies should be all over this technology...if they care about the future of our planet and not short-term profits that is... I wonder which one will win out???