At the James Cook University in North Queensland, Australia, scientists believe they’ve identified a microscopic algae that can provide fuel for cars and food for livestock while simultaneously offsetting pollution. Algae need only sunlight, water and nutrients to grow – and they feed on carbon dioxide, thereby reducing greenhouse emissions.
Says Kirsten Heimann, a researcher at the university, “They take up carbon dioxide from the air or if you feed them carbon dioxide they take that and with the aid of sunlight they convert that into sugars, proteins and oils.” Their simple biology means that the algae can double their mass every 24 to 48 hours. And because of their high oil content, algae can be processed to provide oil to make plastics and bio-diesel and the residue contains about 70 percent protein, making it suitable for livestock feed. Says Kirsten Heimann, “All you have to do is give them appropriate containers in which they can grow and from which to harvest and then it is up to you what do with the biomass. It’s highly valuable or it can be highly valuable, they also produce a lot of antioxidants, they also produce natural sunscreens.” The first step for scientists is selecting the algae that produce the most oil, as well as large quantities of biomass. And who knows? At the end of the day, algae may not be the answer to all pollution problems, but it could well be part of the solution. For more information about the James Cook University see: