Turning polluted water into liquid gold
Visit an algae farm in Washington State where green goo in dirty water is being turned into biofuel.
Michael Weaver, CEO and founder of the biotech company Bionavitas, describes how his recently unveiled breakthough in algae production may help the Obama Administration's task of reducing U.S. dependence on foreign oil.
"The industry really requires three problems to be solved. One problem is strain selection: can we have an algae that is fat enough with enough lipids to produce enough oil for fuel production.
"The fatter the algae, generally, the slower it grows. So, you want to have something that reproduces pretty quickly. This stuff divides generally anywhere between 8 and 24 hours, so it is a very quickly growing algae.
"The second part is the growing process, which is essentially what we have decided to tackle. We grow it so quickly, and so densely, that we can get seven to ten times the amount you would normally have if you grew it in your back yard, for instance."
The third problem is a missing component in the algae-as-fuel scenario: the refining facilities. Companies haven't yet created these facilities as there hasn't been enough demand, or product to refine.
While Weaver admits that algae is not a panacea, it has a place in the world of alternative fuels.
"Algae takes up a lot less land mass to grow, also, than existing methods for growing vegetables for fuel."
"The biggest problem, of course, is trying to compete against a 'magic fluid.' Oil has a huge energy content -- it is very difficult to replace with a single solution. So, are we going to be able to replace everything with algae tomorrow? It is not going to happen. Are we going to be able to replace oil with lots of different solutions, a combination of different types of power generation, fuel generation, and so on? Yes, we will ultimately be able to do that."
See Michael Weaver demonstrate: