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Researchers from University of British Columbia are Maximizing the Potential of Microalgae

Shivam Dwivedi
Shivam Dwivedi

Algae are organisms that grow in aquatic environments and use carbon dioxide (CO2) and Light to create biomass. Microalgae have long been recognized as potentially rich source for Biofuel production because of their relatively high oil content and rapid biomass production. Researchers at the University of British Columbia are researching on how the economics behind the production of biofuel can be optimized. 

Microalgae - The Future Fuel:

We can easily notice the use of microalgae everywhere from pharmaceuticals to cosmetic products, and now a group of students, who are a part of the Green Joule program at the University of British Columbia, are working on a way to transform this tiny micro-sized organism into biofuel.

This potential biofuel energy source is too small to see with the naked human eye, but researchers say it could make a big impact when it comes to climate change and global warming.

UBC Green Joule is researching how microalgae can be converted into biofuels, with a special focus on the plant’s growth and extraction process. One of the team captains, Montserrat Del Toro, says that microalgae have the potential to compete with traditional energy sources.

There are a lot of reasons why microalgae is an ideal alternative to fossil fuels. Firstly, algae can be grown quickly as it is one of the fastest growing organisms in the world. Secondly, it depends on photosynthesis, which makes production costs relatively low. Thirdly, it is rich in oil and also safe to manufacture.

Problems in turning Microalgae into Biofuel:

While this all sounds promising, there are also several problems. One of the main problem of turning microalgae into biofuels is the economics behind production. Even though it is cost-effective to grow algae but when you try and convert it into a fuel that can generate energy, the whole process becomes costly. First, you have to grow the algae, break them open to extract the molecules, chemically convert them into fuel. That’s why it requires many steps, which drives the cost up.

Therefore, the main focus of UBC Green Joule team was to find a way to offset the production costs of algae. One option the team is exploring is combining algae growth with wastewater treatment and together extracting lipids and carbohydrates to produce two different biofuels. The team hopes that by doing so, the costs could be offset by maximizing the products.

As the global oil consumption increases, there needs to be an alternate product that can reduce the world’s dependency on non-renewable energy. Thus, the use of microalgae is gaining increasing interest from researchers, entrepreneurs, and the general public.

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