Algal oil answer to dwindling fuel reserves

July 20th, 2012 - 11:22 pm ICT by IANS  

Sydney, July 20 (IANS) Algal oils could be a sustainable solution to dwindling fuel reserves, says a researcher.

Roger Huerlimann, doctoral student at the James Cook University, Townsville, said microalgae, tiny aquatic organisms related to plants, use light and the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) to produce oils similar to vegetable oils from plants.

“Two of the major problems in future will be the shortage of food and fuel. Microalgae have the potential to solve these two problems and more,” said Heurlimann, according to a James Cook statement.

“Furthermore, the algal oils can be turned into biodiesel for cars and heavy machinery, as well as bio-kerosene for airplanes. This would provide the world with a clean, sustainable source of fuels.

“Nature has given microalgae incredibly effective ‘tools’ in the form of enzymes to produce a high variety of valuable oils. My genetic work will make it possible to select specific microalgae which are suitable for the production of either biofuels or omega-3 fatty acids, among other possible applications.”

The research will help in the search for more productive strains of algae, which produce the oils and fatty acids that are required for each individual application.

Huerlimann is part of a larger research team at James Cook, led by Kirsten Heimann, associate professor. The team explores cultivation of microalgae for the capture of carbon dioxide, a known greenhouse gas responsible for global warming.

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