In the realm of flora, algae get a bad rap. They're slimy and monocellular and waaay at the bottom of the food chain. Like hedge fund managers.
But as Trace Dominguez explains in today's DNews special report, algae may provide a road to a brighter future of renewable energy. Unlike hedge fund managers.
First, the basics: Algae -- that's the plural form, by the way -- are basically stemless, rootless, leafless plants. They're an important food source for both saltwater and freshwater animals. There are more than 100,000 different types of algae on earth and -- here's the critical part -- they store energy in the form of oil.
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Properly harvested and processed, that oil can be used as a biofuel, similar to ethanol, which can power engines, utilities, what-have-you. Technically speaking, biofuels can do just about anything that petroleum-based fuels can do. And they eliminate that pesky tradition of having to wait several million years to brew up a batch.
What's more, the U.S. Department of Energy believes algae could be 10 to 100 times more efficient than other biofuels. And since manufacturers only need the oil, the rest of the algae can be used for food, drugs and certain other industrial applications.
To get the ground-level view on all this, Trace speaks with Dave Hazlebeck and Steve Woods of Global Algae Innovations, a leading developer of algae-based biofuel technology. Check out the video here, or click over to our field report on Seeker Stories: How Algae Could Change The Fossil Fuel Industry
-- Glenn McDonald
LiveScience: What Are Algae?
NCBI: Biofuels from algae: challenges and potential
National Geographic: Biofuels: The Original Car Fuel