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Korean Seaweed Biofuel not Using Usable Lands for Crops

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seaweed1Biofuel is generally defined as energy obtained from biomass, through direct combustion, alcohol fermentation, and methane fermentation. Biomass, the raw material of biofuel, especially for bioalcohol, can be classified into sugar-based (sugar cane, sugar beet, etc), starch-based (corn, potato, sweet potato, etc) and wood-based (wastewood, rice straw, wastepaper, etc).

Today, most of the liquid biofuels are sugar or starch based and are obtained from crops of sugar beet, sugar cane, potatoes or corn. A problem in the future could be the lack of agricultural lands. These crops use good lands on which food can grow instead. An idea to decrease use of proper agricultural lands would be to use the unproductive areas to obtain biofuels.

Korea Institute of Technology in South Korea patented the use of freshwater algae to obtain biofuel. The scientists developed a method to use marine algae or seaweed to produce bioethanol and avoid using productive lands.

The seaweed has a lot of advantages in comparison with land biomass: grows much faster allowing up to six harvests per year, it does not contain lignin and so requires no pre-treatment before it can be turned into fuel, decreasing in this way the costs with this extra process, and it absorbs up to seven times as much carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as wood.

The patent suggests to break all kind of algae with a hydrolytic enzyme and/or a hydrolytic catalyst into mono sugars which can be then fermented into ethanol. The seaweeds can be produced in outdoor ponds or tanks and the biofuel made from them is cheaper than crop or wood based fuels.

[via newscientist.com]

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4 COMMENTS

  1. Seaweed is known in Asia and is mostly used for food products. It is also used successfully as a fertilizer. It is little wonder that it is now being considered for other uses, namely energy. The greater concern, however is the seaweed is an important element to a healthy sea. Gee when do we reduce are need for energy rather than sourcing other products.

  2. I am a Marine Biology Graduate and exposed for more than 10 years in the business of seaweeds in the Philippine, specially the agarophytes and the carragenophytes these are expensive seaweeds and are now lacking in production, if we tap the sources we could damaged the already existing shortage problem.
    But if we use the other kinds of seaweeds like the brown types or the alginates we can have them but it is seasonal and could hamper the natural occurence. So what now?

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