The exploration of new paths that facilitate the energy transition does not stop. Among these options, that of seaweed has gained relevance after the United States Department of Energy has distributed 22 million dollars in aid to give a boost to the production of seaweed, not only for consumption, but also for use as animal feed, raw material for chemistry, and clean fuel.
“From Alaska to the Gulf Coast, the United States has enough littoral resources to produce algae to cover 10% of the demand for fuel for transportation . ” This is assured by Eric Rohlfing, head of the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E).
Aware that, to date, seaweed has not played the role that it can play in this field, Rohlfield points to the importance of paying attention to the technological challenges posed by growing and harvesting seaweed in an efficient and viable way. in costs. These aspects, in fact, are what have pulled the brake on the use of algae as fuel, as well as for the chemical industry and for other commercial products.
Thus, to “build the tools that are needed to start working with this resource and contribute to the energy of the future,” according to the same source, the US Government will support 18 research projects on algae with 22 million dollars in aid.
The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts has received the most support from the Department of Energy. Thus, with an aid of 3.7 million dollars, this center will try to improve the production costs of algae.
For this, work will be done on the selective breeding of Saccharina , one of the varieties with the greatest commercial weight. With this, the experts hope to accelerate the production of improved algae, in addition to reducing costs with less dependence on field inspections.
Exactly towards the same end, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, which has received 2.8 million in support of another breeding program, will be heading. Unlike the previous one, this project will focus on determining the most suitable genetic traits to produce algae at scale.
With the advancement of these initiatives and the other 16 supported, the United States hopes to become a leader in the production of seaweed. But, beyond leadership, with them the path towards the end of fossil fuels will continue to be outlined. And for this, research at all levels, including algae, is essential because, although some innovations end up being unviable, others will be among those that transform the planet by making it more sustainable.
More information in US Department of Energy.