One day, the fuel for your car, the medicine you take and even the food you eat could be produced by tiny green algae powered by sunlight.
IMB’s Professor Ben Hankamer and his team are working to fast-track development of renewable solar fuels and other products that are CO2-neutral and reduce competition for arable land and fresh water.
“About 80 per cent of our global energy demand is for fuels, but almost all renewable energy technologies—solar, wind, wave—generate electricity to supply the other 20 per cent.”
Ben’s team is focused on producing solar fuels from microalgae, which have evolved over 3 billion years to harness the huge energy resource of the Sun.
The solar energy resource is so large that the sunlight striking the Earth’s surface in just two hours delivers enough energy to power the entire world economy for one year.
Plants and algae have mastered the art of harnessing this energy resource through evolving intricate systems that convert sunlight, CO2 and water into the food, fuel and atmospheric oxygen that support life on Earth.
“Compared to other crops, microalgae are highly efficient at converting sunlight and carbon dioxide into energy for their own growth—or for producing fuels, foods and other high-value products,” Ben said.
“My team is working to increase this efficiency further by improving production processes and genetically modifying algae cells.”
Microalgae can be grown in saline or waste water and agricultural run-off, and production systems can be located on non-arable land, reducing competition with food production and water resources.
Microalgae biotechnologies can also power the production of high-value products such as vaccines, and animal and aquaculture feeds.
With the help of generous donors, we can support a sustainable future using algae.