Jan 142012
 

Engineer says cheap biodiesel can be made on any scale year-round

 

The biofuel farm contained only a small wind turbine, solar panel and container of green scum packed within a tub-size frame floating on the water. But its design could someday spawn fleets of robotic farms that harness the ocean winds and sunshine to make cheap, algae-based biodiesel fuel for cars, trains and aircraft.

That vision set forth by BEAR Oceanics aims for self-sustaining robot farms capable of steering clear of boats or ships as they rely solely upon wind and solar power to grow algae year-round. The robotic farms would turn algae sludge into 5 gallons of biofuel per day with a sped-up version of the geological process that created Earth’s fossil fuels — all without the risks of drilling for oil or fracking for natural gas.

“At this point, you’ve turned biomass into a biofuel, and you haven’t used any chemicals, so that you don’t have a toxic waste stream,” said Rudy Behrens, an engineer at BEAR Oceanics. “We can do this on a large scale without disrupting the food chain or creating a hazard.”

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