Just a few hours ago, the world’s first pair of cars to run on algae biodiesel were announced at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival. The cars were prominently displayed outside the world premier of Fields of Fuel, Josh Tickell’s stunning new documentary on biodiesel and the state of a world dependent on petroleum.
Burning a B20 blend of algal biodiesel, these vehicles are the first to make use of a potentially revolutionary way to grow algae for biodiesel production. Solazyme, a synthetic biology company out of San Francisco, has developed a way to grow algae that essentially hijacks the photosynthetic process to optimize oil production. Like any good photosynthetic organism, algae convert the sun’s energy into sugars, which then power the oil-producing process (algae can be over 50% oil). But getting the algae enough sunlight to grow efficiently has been a particular stumbling block to large scale algae production.
So what if you could just feed the algae sugar and skip the sunlight part altogether?
This is precisely what Solazyme has done: they’re feeding sugar to specialized strains of algae that can be grown in the dark.
Outside the film I spoke with Harrison F. Dillon (CTO) and Jonathan S. Wolfson (CEO), founders of Solazyme, and they told me they’re already producing “thousands” of gallons of algae biodiesel, with potential to mass produce “in the next two years”.
If you’ve been following my posts on the GM Coskata ethanol announcement, I have one thing to say to you: the plot thickens.
But it still begs the question of where the sugar going to come from. I’ll have more on this story and the film later.
Chevron Backs Solazyme’s Algae Biodiesel Production Process (+Video)