The use of algae used as a renewable energy biofuel for all of our demands has yet to become a reality. This paper investigates what progress has been achieved in the last 10 years and reviews recent advances in basic and applied algal biomass production from the perspectives of algal biology, cultivation, harvesting, energy conversion, and sustainability.
In the biofuel research industry, one big challenge has been to identify the best algal production systems that are suitable for commercially viable industrial applications. Another challenge has been to identify the algal strains that perform the best. This has included identifying algae with the greatest biomass, production rates, optimizing the algal growth media, optimizing the CO2 exchange and culture conditions, identifying which algae are most pathogen resistant, minimizing pond crashes, and developing strains with enhanced performance.
Over time a lot of progress has been made. For example, the price of gasoline produced from algae has gone down 20-fold what it was ten years ago. And models show that with optimal cultivation, harvesting, and cultivation, algal biocrude can achieve economic equivalence with petroleum.
The authors also discuss the feasibility of using algae biomass for atmospheric CO2 remediation. Using a two stage biomass fractionation procedure, the water soluble carbohydrates and proteins could be harvested for food production while the oils and lipids could be sequestered as a carbon-rich storage product. In fact lipids have 30% greater volumetric carbon density than solid CO2 and thus are an attractive way to sequester carbon in geologic reservoirs.
Using algae for biofuels continues to stand out as advantageous compared to agriculture crops for food and fuel. This is because microalgae have such a high photosynthetic efficiency and short division time, making them extremely suitable for generating more biomass in less time.
This report shows that research in this area looks encouraging, however, field testing of a variety of technology platforms still needs to be done to select the most economical and sustainable systems. These systems need to address the needs of the economy, taking atmospheric carbon mitigation into account.
To read the entire article see DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5772/intechopen.94218
or download the pdf: Recent Advances in Algal Biomass Production.