Ever seen the coloured, stemless, leafless and rootless algae floating on the surface of wastewater bodies? Of course we have and we try our best to keep our distance from it. But in all fairness we shouldn’t, because algae can avert the global energy and food crisis; a two-in-one package.
Algae, it turns out to be, contain omega-3 fatty acids, which are normally impossible for the human body to synthesize, natural food colours and dyes, fertilizers, bioplastics, food, fodder, pharmaceuticals and algal fuel. These unicellular organisms contain vital vitamins including: A, B1, B2, B6, niacin, and C, and are rich in iodine, potassium, iron, magnesium, and calcium which also make them excellent natural fertilizers. It is the primary producer of omega-3 fatty acids, fish having it in their oil after digesting the algae or ‘seaweed’. In Asia and other parts of the world, various species of algae are consumed as food, like for example Dulse (Palmaria palmata) a red species is eaten raw, fresh, dried, or cooked like spinach in Atlantic Canada. In such ways, algae can help fight hunger in poor countries. Furthermore, once planted in any kind of water, it will multiply rapidly and produce 40 times higher yield per acre than a conventional biofuel crop like corn.
All these miracles and yet the best part is left untold; algae can effectively treat wastewater to a drinking water purity-level like what was shown in Alabama. It takes in the chemicals from the fertilisers that sweep into water preventing runoff, which is the leading cause of water pollution and using up such nutrients that would have been otherwise energy-consuming to remove, the water is purified.
The oils contained inside these plants can easily replace fossil fuels. Once the algae grows sufficiently for some days, it is dried and oil is extracted from it through physical methods ranging from normal crushing to osmotic shock or ultrasonic extraction and chemical methods like dissolving it in solvents. The biofuel is essentially green and can be even used as jet fuel. It can light our homes and improve the standard of lives in rural areas; and if we finish poverty, we will finish hunger. The U.S. Department of Energy's Aquatic Species Program’s final report on algae suggested that its biodiesel was the only method to meet the current century’s need of petroleum.
The property that makes algae so feasible is that it has a 40 time higher yield than threshold crops and with every gallon of fuel there is an additional 10 pounds of food. It requires lesser space than other biofuels and is so brilliant in the sense that it combines two pollutants, wastewater and carbon dioxide, into two very valuable commodities, water and electricity.
Global Algae Innovations, through their innovations, were able to produce a gallon of algal fuel in $2-$3 which intially costed $30. Increasing innovations and public demand can overthrow the reign of fossil fuels and bring back the promise of a greener future. Algae is the next big thing
All it needs to grow is sunlight, carbon dioxide and water, which is the stuff of all plants, and this is available in every corner of the Earth limitlessly! It can even be placed beside a power plant to use its carbon dioxide emissions and reduce global warming. A true non-pollutant and marvel of nature, it can prove as an ideal resource for third-world countries like Pakistan by completely stopping their oil imports as algae can compensate for them. They are very less costly than current gas and petroleum ventures and can help such countries to industrialize profitably and focus on other issues like hunger, until they can rely on bigger and expensive renewable sources of energy like fusion. Perhaps it can usher global peace too, as most wars are based on conflicting claims over resources. If everyone’s getting what they need through ‘algaculture’, will there be any need left to fight?