The potential of algae as a biofuel

Algae as a biofuel has the potential to be another renewable energy alternative. But it presents as limits its low growth rates and the high costs of its collection.

Artificial intelligence is presented as a solution to solve these limitations. The Texas A&M Agrilife Research group of scientists aims to make algae production reliable and economical for biofuels and to apply it as an alternative energy in transportation such as jet aircraft.

The leader of this project is a scientist and professor of synthetic biology and renewable products in the Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology, Joshua Jan. The US Department of Energy’s Bureau of Fossil Energy funds the research.


Low algae yield

Algae-based bioproduction represents one of the best energy and carbon alternatives for renewable fuels and CO2 capture and utilization.they say of the research team. Despite the strong potential and efforts of science, the commercialization of algal biofuel is hampered by difficulties in its cultivation conditions such as limited sunlight penetration, cultivation dynamics, low yields and lack of technology. for its large-scale production. large-scale harvest.

When it comes to lighting conditions, algae tend to shade out, making it difficult for even light to penetrate the entire crop. On the other hand, the dehydration of seaweed once harvested also constitutes high handling costs on a large scale.

If algae-based biofuel were to overcome these limitations, it could become a key point in the fight against the climate crisis. It would act to reduce carbon emissions and the pressure of dependence on fossil fuels. It would even cause a reversal of the global bioeconomy.

Overcoming the challenges of algae for biofuel

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Researcher Yuan has successful experiences in researching methods to convert corn stubble and grass into bioplastics and lightweight biodegradable materials.

Their latest project uses an advanced artificial intelligence learning model, the purpose of which is to predict light penetration, growth and optimal algae density. This would allow continuous harvesting of hydroponically grown synthetic algae, further achieving rapid growth at the optimum density to allow the best light penetration.

The method implemented by this team of scientists succeeded in beating a world record for the production of biomass in the open air. The DOE’s most recent target range is 25 grams per square meter per day, and Yuan and his team hit 43.3 grams.

Algae can be used as an alternative energy source for many industries, including jet fuelYuan said. “Seaweed is a good alternative fuel source for this industry. It is an alternative raw material for the bioethanol refinery, without the need for pre-treatment. It is cheaper than coal or natural gas. It also provides a more efficient way to capture and use carbon.”. Yuan also mentioned that seaweed can be a good food source for animals.

Algae biofuel, a definitive solution?

Algae-based biofuel is considered one of the ultimate renewable energy solutions, but its commercialization is hampered by growth limitations, caused by mutual shading and high harvesting costs.

We overcome these challenges by advancing machine learning to inform the design of semi-continuous algal culture (SAC) to maintain optimal cell growth and minimize cross-shading.Yuan said. “This technology has proven to be affordable and helps propel algae as a true form of alternative energy,” he added.

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