Kerosene is not a fossil fuel

Algae fuel

We humans need energy for many things: to drive our vehicles, to generate electricity or to heat our homes. Most of this energy comes from fossil fuels, i.e. coal, natural gas or oil. By burning these - e.g. in power plants - we can generate energy. In the process, however, the gas carbon dioxide, or CO2 for short, is released and this harms our environment, especially our climate. CO2 ensures that the earth is getting warmer and warmer. That is, it is partly responsible for climate change. And the more fossil fuels we burn to produce energy, the more CO2 gets into our atmosphere.

Energy from vegetable oil

However, plants can absorb the CO2 from the air and use the sun to convert it into energy. This is called photosynthesis. Plants use this energy to grow, among other things. Some plants can even store the absorbed CO2 permanently, for example as starch or oil. There is a lot of energy in both. In maize kernels, for example, the CO2 is stored as maize starch. We can make dough out of it or eat the corn kernels directly. Corn then provides energy for our body. Rapeseed plants, oil palms or even microalgae store the CO2 as energy-rich oil.

Algae - The little CO2 eater from the water

Microalgae use a lot of CO2 - up to 40 times more than other plants. They can also produce a lot more oil than land crops in this way. And this algae oil is quite valuable to us humans. Just like crude oil, we can use it to generate electricity in power plants or to drive our vehicles. The electricity generated in this way is, however, much more climate-friendly than energy from fossil fuels. CO2 is released when you burn the algae oil, but unlike petroleum it is not new CO2, but what the algae had already absorbed from the air. So there is a kind of cycle: the CO2 is absorbed by the algae and stored as oil, we burn it to generate energy, so the CO2 is released again and absorbed again by a plant. The CO2 can therefore be used again and again - real CO2 recycling!

Fuel of the future

Algae oil can already be used to make fuel to power cars. Even airplanes have flown on kerosene made from algae oil. However, only a few milliliters of oil can be extracted from thousands of liters of algae, so very, very little. In order for us to be able to fill up with algae fuel at normal petrol stations at some point, scientists have to continue researching the microalgae. For example, they are trying to breed new microalgae that absorb even more CO2 and thus store even more oil. In addition, the researchers want to make the microalgae grow even better by improving the greenhouses and the technology in them. Until then, energy from renewable sources - wind power, hydropower or solar energy - can help to protect our climate.

Status: 04/30/2016, 12:31 pm