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UoM Researchers Making Algal Biofuel a Reliable Commodity

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The world is often full of exciting and innovative research, with the greatest minds of our civilization looking to make tomorrow a better place. We often get to see first-hand accounts of this work in action on a regular basis. It’s always exciting and endearing to see, and it gives us a sense of real perspective about what we could achieve. In the present era, we seem to be fighting a losing battle against making our world more sustainable – though solutions are quietly being put together.

For example, the research team at the University of Michigan have recently been worked on creating a fuel that is made from algae. This powerful biofuel could, if developed fully, be used to help transform our losing battle against energy. A $2m funding boost from the US Department of Energy is hoped to have a positive impact on the long-term potential of this scheme.

Given that the United Nations climate change report stated we have until around 2030 to avoid ‘climate destabilization’, it’s important that research like this is able to continue on. Extreme weather is leading to changes in the historical pattern of nature, leading to many fears about what comes next for our planet. Warmer waters is having all manner of impact on the weather, for example.

We need to be able to find solutions as a species to put this to an end and to start building a safer, more habitable future. This means cutting our expensive and damaging energy intake, and it also means creating a safer alternative to energy creation. One of the best examples of that would be using biofuels.

Can algal biofuel be a reality by 2030?

Obviously, it’s a race against time. We want to be able to have this kind of energy source present and available ASAP, but it’s easier said than done. 36 billion gallons of transport fuel is expected to contain “blended sources” by 2022, but we need to work faster than that. With corn-based ethanol only capable of making up around 15 million gallons of the fuel that is needed, algae could become an essential part of solving this issue.

The research team over at the University of Michigan are fighting fast to try and perfect the process. Algae is grown inside the lab and then the lab is able to use that and convert it into fuel. It’s a long-term process, but it means that those at the back-end of the process can help those in the field to see what else can be done to make the algae even better.

It’s a long-term process, and it’s going to take a lot of mixing and matching to eventually get it right. It should be encouraging for humanity, though, that we appear to have solutions being worked on. Biofuel might not stop ecological collapse on its own, but it’s good to see that we’re doing various projects as a species to try and make an active change.


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