Study: Algae-Propane in Your Tank by 2020

Green Energy: Scientists see propane potential in algae. (image: boston.com)

A recent study is pointing to algae as a potential source of propane, suggesting that genetically-modified blooms could be filling propane tanks in a decade, according to coverage in the British magazine, The Engineer.

No living organisms can emit propane. But the Directfuel consortium, a team of European and American researchers who developed the four-year study, thinks adding enzymes to algae can generate the fuel.

A British biologist on the project compared the process to the ripening effects of ethylene gas on bananas. (Though it’s a weak analogy because bananas already emit their own ethylene…)

What’s to like about algae-propane? It won’t compete for land with existing crops, growing instead in “industrial bioreactors.” Also, the algae won’t need to be harvested — just the gas wafting off it.

A prototype reactor is in the works in the Czech Republic. The scientists ask for ten years to put a vehicle powered by algae-propane on the road.

“You have the potential to have very high efficiencies, but it’s theoretical at the moment,” chief researcher, Patrik Jones, told The Engineer.

Algae is being studied as a possible source for other green fuels, including synthetic crude oil and biodiesel.

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