US government grants $10 million to algae fuel research

The US government has granted $10 million to unlock the potential of biofuels made from algae, in an effort to diversify the fuels used in transport.

The funding, from the Department of Energy, will support research projects aiming to boost the productivity of algae cultivation systems and develop and demonstrate effective, energy-efficient, and low-cost algae harvest and processing technologies, such as centrifugation and extraction.

The grant hopes to fund projects which will maximise yield from algae and improve production of biofuel intermediates—the product of algae cultivation and pre-processing. According to the Department of Energy, increasing the yields of biofuel intermediates will help lower the cost of biofuels by decreasing capital and operating costs, while enhancing the sustainability of algal biofuels by capturing energy from every available part of the feedstock and reducing water resource requirements.

“At a large-scale, these technologies could help speed up commercialisation of domestically-produced, cost-competitive biofuels from algae,” the Department of Energy said in a statement. “The Department encourages applicants from industry, universities, and national laboratories.”

A cost share of at least 20% of the total project cost is required.

Biofuels from Algae is picking up more attention globally. The Research Institute of Tsukuba Bio-tech recently received funding from the Japanese government for its ambitious algae biofuels programme. And according to energy research firm SBI, algae biofuels will post a compound annual growth rate of 43.1% that will lead the market to $1.6 billion in 2015.

How viable are biofuels? See our three-part study here.

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