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...While 'greener' fuels offer hope

Algae could play an important role in the future production of biofuel, according to scientists. The light-loving organisms are highly efficient at converting solar energy into biomass and can double in size in a day. Brewing cellulose from algae to produce ethanol is one promising example of the emerging "second generation" of biofuels - those with few of the social and environmental drawbacks of first-generation fuels derived from food crops. Algae can also grow in salty water, so they do not compete for water with arable crops, and can grow well in sewage which they can purify while producing fuel. Several energy companies are now investigating the fuel-producing potential of algae.

Termites could soon also join the march to the biofuels of the future; Brazil is to invest part of its recent US$5bn commitment to biotechnology into using the tiny detrivores to convert cellulose in wood waste into sugars.

Date published: March 2008

 

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