Biofuels produced from algae hold “significant promise” as an alternative to polluting petroleum-based fuels, but the technology will require years of development before it is ready to be deployed at a large-scale, commercial level, according to a U.S. Department of Energy report. The “National Algal Biofuels Technology Roadmap” identifies the state of the technology and the challenges facing researchers, engineers, and policymakers in the advancement of algal biofuels.
“Many years of both basic and applied science and engineering will likely be needed to achieve affordable, scalable, and sustainable algal-based fuels,” the report says. Scientists involved in writing the report said that the technology behind algal biofuels is far less developed than the technologies used to produce corn ethanol or biodiesel. Al Darzins, a group manager with the National Bioenergy Center at the National Energy Laboratory, said it is important to do far more research on various strains of algae, including genetically modified strains, to develop qualities useful in fuel production. In addition, he said, researchers must develop efficient growth systems, such as ponds or closed containers, where algae can be farmed on a large scale.