In growing algae for biofuels, it matters who used the water last
Posted by admin on 1st December 2017

Health food enthusiasts routinely shell out over $30 per pound of dried algae powder to whip up green smoothies to fuel their bodies. Algae can also power vehicles, but algae-based renewable fuels cost more than currently available gasoline or diesel fuel. Although biofuels made from algae provide numerous environmental benefits, they will not win market share until they can compete economically with cheap fossil fuels.

Algae require tremendous volumes of water to grow, and reusing that water makes production cheaper. However, researchers have disagreed on how recycled water affects algae. Some scientists have found that it inhibits growth, others found that it improves growth, and many found that it has no effect.

As a researcher focused on algae cultivation, I wanted to find an explanation for these different results, which could reveal optimal strategies for growing algae. In a recently published study, I found that algae growth success was highly linked to the type of algae previously grown in the reused water. This knowledge could help us choose which algae to grow to make a more competitive fuel source. Though it may seem like a minor adjustment, finding the most effective and economical production methods is an essential step in moving any technology from the lab to the market.