# Algae to the rescue

by Ivan Seeking
Tags: algae, rescue
 Sci Advisor HW Helper PF Gold P: 3,724 Average yield of corn per acre in US is about 140 bushels per acre. Average yield of soybean per acre in US is about 33 bushels per acre. In Illinois, the breakeven price for corn is $3 per bushel and for soybean is$8.(http://www.farmdoc.uiuc.edu/manage/n...fefo07_17.html) I think corn is going for about $4.50 per bushel and soybean is going for about$12 per bushel. Total income per acre for corn is (4.5-3)*140 = $210 per acre Total income per acre for beans is (12-8)*33 =$132 per acre I know what crop I would go for....
 Emeritus Sci Advisor PF Gold P: 12,501 Yep, that would do it.
 Emeritus Sci Advisor PF Gold P: 12,501 Over the last 8 years, the price of corn has gone from $1.86 to$5 on the chart, and in the news I am seeing $6. http://www.farmdoc.uiuc.edu/manage/p...iceHistory.asp Soybeans have gone from 5$ to 12$on the chart, and has topped$14. http://www.farmdoc.uiuc.edu/manage/p...iceHistory.asp http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?p...ewM&refer=news The cost per bushel is rising with oil prices, but using the previous numbers. (6-3)*140 = $420 profit per acre of corn (14-8)*33 =$198 profit per acre of soybeans Both are now more expensive by a factor of three than they were eight years ago. The price of crude has risen from $20 a barrel to almost$140 a barrel. And the price of diesel has increased to a little more than a factor of three...probably just about now a four. But of course the current price of fuel lags the price of crude by I think a couple of months. And the cost of producing corn and soy lags the price of diesel.
 P: 66 I have pretty much been following this thread since its inception and have really acquired an interest in this subject. Would it be possible for someone to post a list of good graduate programs doing research in algae fuels? I have a ChemE background so I'm interested in more of the engineering side than the biological side, although I'm sure there's plenty of overlap.
 Emeritus Sci Advisor PF Gold P: 12,501 I will dig up some additional references and names later, but I know that for one, there is a large program in Hawaii. I also know that there are people at Oregon State Univ working on this. The separation of the algae from water, and getting the oil from the algae, are two areas needing improvement.
 P: 66 Thanks Ivan, I've definitely heard good things about those programs. Hawaii has something like the largest collection of algae species in the world I think. I had not previously known this, but oil extraction is one of the more costly processes involved in the sustainability of algae-based biodiesel. So, like you said, there seems to be a lot of room for improvement in that area. Ultrasonic-assissted extraction is fascinating to me because I had never thought of extracting oils (or anything) from plant cells like that. Basically you are just rupturing all the cells so that the contents spill out into solution. Interesting stuff; reading about this makes me wish I were more talented.
 Emeritus Sci Advisor PF Gold P: 12,501 I will tell you something that I had planned to keep secret but am not in a position to pursue: It may be possible to migrate the oil out of the cell using something near a 2MHz wave, without killing the algae. It is certainly possible to migrate material into a cell in such a manner. There is a scientist that would likely be a very good contact for you generally, and I will post his name later, but I didn't log things correctly and haven't found the email yet.
 Emeritus Sci Advisor PF Gold P: 12,501 There is also the idea of rapid pressure changes created by non-linear disturbances. Shock waves can be very effective at rupturing cells.
PF Gold
P: 3,103
 Quote by Ivan Seeking ...The separation of the algae from water, and getting the oil from the algae, are two areas needing improvement.
The issue of water separation seems to be a common theme in biofuels production. I read of the similar problems with Cellulosic stocks in particular. I am curious about how nature handles this. That is, what to the termites do? I'm not asking about the enzyme reductions to sugar used by termites, but rather, one might think termites would otherwise have a similar problem with getting to the fuel stock without all the water in the way?
 Emeritus Sci Advisor PF Gold P: 12,501 One typically only expects about a 1% algae solution by weight; using the dry weight of the algae. In fact a 1% solution looks like dark-green pea soup.
 Emeritus Sci Advisor PF Gold P: 12,501 Here we go: Michael Briggs ; email msbriggs@unh.edu http://www.unh.edu/p2/biodiesel/article_alge.html
 PF Gold P: 3,103 Study critical of the algal biofuel company GreenFuel Technologies: GreenFuel Technologies: A Case Study for Industrial Photosynthetic Energy Capture Krassen Dimitrov http://www.nanostring.net/Algae/CaseStudy.pdf Conclusion: best possible price with the GT approach is \$800/bbl
 Emeritus Sci Advisor PF Gold P: 12,501 I think we need to be careful here: Has that paper been published? But yes, I read that some time ago, and I think the cost of the bioreactor and process is beyond reason. That is not the way to do it. In fact, this sort of approach is part of what motivated me to open my own company. It is important to remember the scale involved. Designs that have a high cost per square foot, and high maintenance costs, almost certainly cannot have the lifespan needed to justify the price. And no matter how clever might be our bioreactor, there is still the limit of joules per square foot per day, in fuel that can be produced.
PF Gold
P: 3,103
 Quote by Ivan Seeking I think we need to be careful here: Has that paper been published?
No, sorry I should have clarified it is not a journal publication. I just found the arguments interesting. However, I note than not even the Aquatic Species Program report is not a 'journal published' document, though it is a sound document and often cited as fundamental.
 P: 129 I jumped in this thread pretty late, lots of posts to read I didnt read everything so forgive me if I ask something thats allready been discussed but this is an interesting topic and a few questions have come to mind. First of all does growing mass quanities of algae have any negative effects on the evironment in comparison to bio diesal produced from corn? For example the downside to corn based bio fuel that people most commonly talk about is it destroying the soil by taking all the minerals from it. Does it have a long term effect on water or could the water from algae farms simply be recycled and chemicals added to it so it can be used for growth over long periods of time. Can one genetically modify algae like similar to produce in hopes to shorten growing time and possibly make it denser so it occupies less acreage and perhaps produces more sugars and hydrocarbons then natural algae?
PF Gold
P: 3,103
 Quote by blimkie.k I jumped in this thread pretty late, lots of posts to read I didnt read everything so forgive me if I ask something thats allready been discussed but this is an interesting topic and a few questions have come to mind. First of all does growing mass quanities of algae have any negative effects on the evironment in comparison to bio diesal produced from corn? For example the downside to corn based bio fuel that people most commonly talk about is it destroying the soil by taking all the minerals from it. Does it have a long term effect on water or could the water from algae farms simply be recycled and chemicals added to it so it can be used for growth over long periods of time. Can one genetically modify algae like similar to produce in hopes to shorten growing time and possibly make it denser so it occupies less acreage and perhaps produces more sugars and hydrocarbons then natural algae?
Algae Biodiesel research starting point:
US DoE Aquatic Species Report
www.nrel.gov/docs/legosti/fy98/24190.pdf

Land use question: coupling to food is probably nil for BD Algae, though any large scale land usage (assuming land based bioreactors) couples cost in some way for crop land usage.

Interesting aside I heard recently, though I haven't run the numbers: fossil and even nuclear energy use roughly about the same amount of land as solar, wind, or algae-to-BD per unit of energy, once all the mining, drilling, plant, transportation, water usage, and security issues are factored in. Seems plausible, as a quick glance at my closest nuclear plant shows the fence is not right up against the reactor building , rather it keeps me a mile or two away.
Emeritus
PF Gold
P: 12,501
 Quote by mheslep Interesting aside I heard recently, though I haven't run the numbers: fossil and even nuclear energy use roughly about the same amount of land as solar, wind, or algae-to-BD per unit of energy, once all the mining, drilling, plant, transportation, water usage, and security issues are factored in. Seems plausible, as a quick glance at my closest nuclear plant shows the fence is not right up against the reactor building , rather it keeps me a mile or two away.
I strongly suspect that in time, Algae can be competitive with coal. Now, if you think about that one a bit, and consider the entirety of the coal-to-power process, the elegance of the idea becomes apparent.
PF Gold
P: 2,215
 Quote by Ivan Seeking I strongly suspect that in time, Algae can be competitive with coal. Now, if you think about that one a bit, and consider the entirety of the coal-to-power process, the elegance of the idea becomes apparent.
I'm doing a sampling of people that have heard of using algae as a fuel source and I'm surprised to find that about 1 in 4 so far have heard of the process.

This really sounds like one way to pull out of dependency on off shore fuel sources.

(without affecting food prices)

In order to avoid crisis and war can the government demand more cooperation from American Corporations like auto builders and get mechanical conversions going fast or whatever is required for INDEPENDENCE? Is there some reason that America was able to respond so well to crisis in the 1940s with nationally orchestrated manufacturing etc... while in 2008 its a bit like "everyone for themselves"?

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