News Stories

Run our Cars on...Water?

Fuel from ice? How about fuel from algae?and the water it lives in!

The invention of an efficient system for splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen will be what shows us if hydrogen really does have the potential to be a clean, sustainable fuel. But manmade systems that exist today to do this are very inefficient and often require the use of additional chemicals. But anew method uses a simple chemical process powered by sunlight.

Nature has evolved a very efficient way to do this: photosynthesis, carried out by plants, the source of all oxygen on Earth. Vast worldwide efforts have been devoted to the development of artificial photosynthetic systems, but with little success. Now scientists think they can do it too.Chemists have developed of what they say is the first economical, eco-friendly process to convert algae oil into biodiesel fuel?a discovery they predict could one day lead to US independence from oil.

One of the problems with current methods for producing biodiesel from algae oil is the processing cost, but this process is at least 40% cheaper than others now being used. Supply will not be a problem: There is a limitless amount of algae growing in oceans, lakes, and rivers, throughout the world. It could also be farmed.

Researcher Ben Wen estimates algae has an "oil-per-acre production rate 100-300 times the amount of soybeans, and offers the highest yield feedstock for biodiesel and the most promising source for mass biodiesel production to replace transportation fuel in the United States." He says that his firm is now testing a pilot program for the production capacity of nearly 1 million gallons of algae biodiesel per year. Depending on the size of the machinery and the plant, it's possible that a company could produce up to 50 million gallons of algae biodiesel annually.

His process can be adapted to mobile units that the military could use in the field.

Art credit: dreamstime.com

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