Power from seaweed

Researchers working on a €6m research project called Biomara are investigating the feasibility of using algae to produce biofuel.

Biomara has received €4,874,414 from the European Union’s Interreg IVA programme, with additional funding from Highlands and Islands Enterprise, the Crown Estate, Northern Ireland Executive and the Irish Government.

The project’s lead scientist, Dr Michele Stanley, a research fellow from the Microbial and Molecular Biology Department of the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS) said: ‘Conventional biofuel crops compete for land and fresh water with farming and nature.

‘What we need is fast-growing, easily used plants which thrive in environments not used for agriculture or conservation.

‘Marine algae could be part of the solution.

‘Seaweeds grow rapidly, harness carbon dioxide and have simple structures which make them easily converted to fuel.’

But much research and development is needed to unleash the potential of algal biofuels.

As well as seaweeds, Stanley and her team will investigate which strains of microalgae are most suitable for oil production and cultivation on an industrial scale.

For the full news story behind Biomara see the 20 April 2009 issue of The Engineer