Thailand Scientists Discover New Algae Species – Can Be Used to Produce Biodiesel

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Researchers at Khon Kaen University (KKU) in Thailand have discovered a new species of algae, which could be used for the commercial production of biodiesel as early as April 2009.

The species, unimaginatively labelled KKU-S2, was found on the surface of a freshwater pond at the university, and was quickly identified as a promising source of alternative fuel. Speaking about the discovery, team-leader Dr Ratanaporn Leesing said, “We can extract oil from this species. Its properties are fit for biodiesel production. Within two days, the number of this alga can double, and within a week or two we can extract oil from it”

Dr Leesing is confident that the algae can be effectively farmed for industrial biodiesel production as early as next April. She was also keen to stress that a KKU-S2 facility would not require much space. Quoting statistics from the US, she estimated that up to 136,900 litres of oil per hectare could be produced from the small green algae, compared with only 172 litres from corn.

The discovery is likely to prove of interest to producers looking for alternatives to biodiesel produced from food-based sources such as corn or soy, which have been criticised for their contribution to global food shortages, as well their negative impact on local biodiversity.

Image Credit – superiphi via flickr.com on a Creative Commons license

 

Andrew Williams

is a writer and freelance journalist specialising in sustainability and green issues. He lives in Cardiff, Wales.