Japanese Scientists consider algae as a potential abundant source of biofuel, media reports.
Sachio Nishio, a professor of agriculture at Shikoku University Junior College, has been researching algal biofuel for about 10 years. According to Nishio, Scenedesmus, a genus of microalgae measuring about 20 micrometers, is strong enough to withstand a wide range of temperatures, from about 40 degrees to ice cold. Up to 50 percent of the organism’s dry weight is oil and, theoretically, Scenedesmus can multiply by more than twice in number over a course of 24 hours.
With large-scale production at low cost a possibility, many corporations are jumping on the algae fuel bandwagon.
Heavy industry giant IHI Corp. erected a 1,500-square-meter facility in Kagoshima earlier this year. Commissioned by the central government’s New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO), the facility was established as one of the nation’s largest algal production plants.
The company had been cultivating algae in a facility in Yokohama on a trial basis, but decided to erect the new facility down south where the warmer climate and longer daylight hours provide the perfect environment for the mass production of algae.
Botryococcus is grown in the Kagoshima plant. It’s a tiny algae measuring just a few micrometers in size. A strain, which can deliver 50 percent or more of its dry weight as oil, was selected after the company consulted Taira Enomoto, a professor of biology at Kobe University. The algae is also known to show strong resistance to infection.
“What’s significant is that we were able to establish a basic method that enables us to grow the algae outdoors with ease and little supervision,” said Tsutomu Narikiyo, deputy general manager of the IHI’s Corporate Business Development Division.
A hectare of algal culture is capable of producing 137,000 liters of oil annually, according to some data collected abroad. Botryococcus is able to produce twice to 10 times as much oil compared to coconuts, an important source of biofuel, according to IHI.
Also, Scottish researchers have examined micro-algae strains revealing that algal oil has a potential as fuel for the future.
Read more about Algae as a future fuel at the following articles:
- Algae is future fuel for thought for big business and government
- Scientists reveal algal oil potential as fuel for the future
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