Former Gov. Jeanne Shaheen Gets a Primer on Algae-based Biofuel
By Jody Record, Campus Journal Editor
July 9, 2008
The stages of algae production to be used for biodiesel fuel are reflected in these bottles. The large beaker shows the algae growing in water; the second, in sludge form; the third after it has been freeze-dried. The last jar holds biofuel made from algae.
Former Gov. Jeanne Shaheen stopped by Ihab Farag’s biodiesel lab yesterday
to learn more about the alternative energy work being done at UNH using algae
to make biodiesel fuel.
Professor Ihab Farag explains the process of growing algae for biofuel to former Gov. Jeanne Shaheen who toured the biodiesel lab yesterday.
Farag, a professor of chemical engineering, also gave Shaheen a tour of the
greenhouses where experiments with algae and natural light have recently been
launched. On Monday Shaheen gave a speech calling for increased funding for
research and technology.
“A lot of universities are catching on; we started early,” Farag
said of the algae research, adding the fuel source is still a few years away
from commercial use because it is not yet cost effective. “Contamination
is a big issue.”
Still, algae is cheaper than corn and soybeans. An acre of either will produce
between 60 and 70 gallons of biodiesel while an acre of algae will yield 10,000
gallons. What’s more, algae grows very fast—it quadruples within
24 hours-- and can be harvested within days. And it doesn’t compete with
food the way corn and soybeans do.
Algae and water circulate through these hoses while artifical light prompts photosynthesis, producing more algae.
To grow algae you need air, light and water; another benefit over other biodiesel
fuel sources is that any water including saltwater and wastewater can be used,
conserving yet another resource.
After the algae is harvested it is freeze dried—heat would affect the
stability of the lipids—and then the oil is extracted.
Farag noted it will take governments getting behind the concept for algae
to become a viable source of fuel. Shaheen agreed, saying she supports renewable
Algae turning to biodiesel.