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'Green' energy from algae
Date:8/6/2009

This release is available in German.

In view of the shortage of petrochemical resources and climate change, development of CO2-neutral sustainable fuels is one of the most urgent challenges of our times. Energy plants like rape or oil palm are being discussed fervently, as they may also be used for food production. Hence, cultivation of microalgae may contribute decisively to tomorrow's energy supply. For energy production from microalgae, KIT scientists are developing closed photo-bioreactors and novel cell disruption methods.

Microalgae are monocellular, plant-like organisms engaged in photosynthesis and converting carbon dioxide (CO2) into biomass. From this biomass, both potential resources and active substances as well as fuels like biodiesel may be produced. While growing, algae take up the amount of CO2 that is later released again when they are used for energy production. Hence, energy from algae can be produced in a CO2-neutral manner contrary to conventional energy carriers.

Apart from CO2-neutral closed loop management, algae have an-other advantage: Industrial CO2 emissions may be used as a "re-source", as algae grow faster at high carbon dioxide concentrations and, hence, produce more biomass for energy production.

However, this is not their only advantage: "Compared to land plants, algae produce five times as much biomass per hectare and contain 30 to 40% oil usable for energy production", says Professor Cle-mens Posten, who directs this research activity at the KIT Institute of Life Science Engineering. As the algae may also be cultivated in arid i.e. dry, areas not suited for agriculture, there is hardly any competition with agricultural areas. There, however, closed systems are required.

Presently, algae are being produced in open ponds i
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Contact: Monika Landgraf
monika.landgraf@kit.edu
49-721-608-8126
Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres
Source:Eurekalert  

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