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Algae is the third-generation of biofuel, and in contrast to previous biofuels, it holds higher yields, and large scale algae cultivation can take place on lands that are unsuitable for food crops. This opens the door to the creation of a wide range of fuel types; including butanol, biodiesel, jet fuel, and ethanol.
Algaculture produces minimal impact on freshwater resources; as a biodegradable product, it could be produced using saline or wastewater, without threatening food supplies. Moreover, algae fuel is nearly carbon-neutral because it also extracts CO2 from the atmosphere. Once harvested, algae can be processed and blended into a number of varieties of fuel. Lipid oil can be transformed into biodiesel, and the carbohydrate content can be fermented into bioethanol or butanol fuel.
However, current production costs are still too high for it to be a fossil fuel competitor. The lipid extraction, necessary to produce the fuel is costly and energy-consuming. First, the algae needs to be completely dried, transforming it into a powder, from which the lipids may be extracted. This demands incredible amounts of water and fertilizer.
Recent developments in algae biofuel are making this third-generation energy source more applicable in many sectors and more economical. For instance, current research projects are developing algae biofuel made of non-biological feedstock for sectors that depend on and operate with dense fuels, such as industries using pyrolysis oil to generate heat and power. Some players in the transportation sector are replacing petroleum with algae biofuel because it does not involve any engine functioning changes. Although the increase in popularity is indeed promising, adoption is still relentlessly slow due to its high costs for large-scale production.