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Seaweed For Fuel?
Posted 2011-07-05 by BLUEiQ Team

Seaweed is typically about as interesting as watching paint dry. You may see it washed up on the beach and that is about the extent of your exposure to it. However, it has gained a vast new relevance in the modern world. The vehicle of the future may depend on it for fuel.

By now, most of us know about corn-based ethanol and other biofuels. They are often touted as cleaner alternatives to gasoline, but the issue of land usage is of major concern. Every acre of corn that is grown for ethanol takes an acre of corn away from the food market. In essence, using land to make fuel from crops reduces the availability of food and raises the costs of it. However, by using seaweed as a biofuel, this problem is eliminated.

Researchers have improved the outlook for converting seaweed into ethanol. If harvested in the summer, its carbohydrate content is higher than at any other time of the year, which provides the optimal time for ethanol production, as the sugar is converted into ethanol. The metal content found in seaweed is also lower during the summer than at other times, which inhibits the ethanol production process less than when heavier concentrations of metals are present.

There are still issues to work out before this becomes a viable reality. One major hurdle to overcome is the cost of production. It would obviously be difficult to grow seaweed on a commercial scale on ocean floors. However, if and when advancements are made, countries with large coastlines, such as the United States, China, and Brazil will probably stand to benefit greatly from this breakthrough.

So, will this all be part of your future? With home production now a reality for fuels such as ethanol, maybe you'll be able to do the same with seaweed in the future. Who knows, you may be able to collect some of that seaweed you find at the beach and fuel your next trip with it. Seaweed may not be the subject of a blockbuster film anytime soon - but it may get you to whatever that film is!

tags: seaweed; alternative fuel; gas; ethanol


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