Biodiesel is a natural resource that can be made from vegetable oil, animal fats, and even from algae, called algae biodiesel. What are algae, exactly? A singular definition for every type and subset is difficult, but a few basic facts hold true. They are living organisms classified under the domain of ‘eukaryota,’ and contain chlorophyll, and can be either photosynthetic and phototrophic. It grows naturally in many different climate zones around the world, and is also widely grown on farms and for hobby by scientists and individuals.
The algae plant alone cannot be used as a biodiesel fuel, but must be converted through a complex chemical process in order to become suitable for use as an energy source.
Methods of Growing/Harvesting:
Open Pond Growing
In order to transform algae into biodiesel fuel, several stages of processing are required. One method of creating algae biodiesel, which is considered the most well-known one, is open pond growing. As the name suggests, algae is grown in a controlled, outdoor pond, in order for the algae to have access to sun and hot temperatures, which hastens their development. Water temperature must be kept stable at all times, and water quality must be entirely free from any bacteria that can have an adverse effect on the growing process, or the overall quality of the plant.
A second way to make algae biodiesel is with the ‘vertical growth’ method. This is considered the preferred method of extraction, as the time needed from growth to harvest is much lower than the open pond method. For vertical growth, algae is placed in colorless plastic bags, in order to ensure safety and hygienic cover, protected from contamination and rain, though still exposed to the sun’s rays. Without any cross contamination, the quality of the vertically grown algae makes for superior oil.
One final method used for the production of algae biodiesel is the ‘closed tank’ approach. Many industries and companies have been using the closed tank approach to create plant bioreactors, a well known method for its effectiveness in producing great quantities of oil. The quality of the oil from closed tank systems are also usually the highest, and can be effectively utilized in running everything from cars, to ships, to buildings.