Ford examines algae benefits as a sustainable biofuel

7 Oct 2010

Car manufacturer Ford is currently working on a new biofuel that will examine algae’s suitability as a greener fuel source.

Ford scientists are testing the suitability of renewable energy sources, such as algae, as potential automotive biofuels in an effort to better understand the use of biomass to produce future biofuels.

“Ford has a long history of developing vehicles that run on renewable fuels; and the increased use of biofuels is an important element of our sustainability strategy now and moving forward,” said Tim Wallington, technical leader with the Ford Systems analytics and environmental sciences department.

“We look ahead from a technological, economic, environmental and social standpoint at potential next-generation renewable fuels that could power our vehicles.”

Adaptable nature

Algal fuel, algaeoleum or third-generation biofuel, is being focussed on largely due to its adaptable nature. Almost all of the carbon dioxide in the solution can be converted to oil, carbohydrates and other cell components through photosynthesis and algae can grow in numerous environments, including fresh or salt waters.

Another potential for algae is its ability to double in number daily and be harvested year-round if grown in environmentally-controlled conditions or in suitable climates.

While Ford is focussing on algaeolium for the time being, it is also considering more bio-based near-term solutions; such as ethanol and butanol.

“Ford is very supportive of the increased availability of biofuels and biofuel blends from diverse and sustainable sources,” said Jim Anderson, technical expert, Ford Motor Company.

While algae biofuels do not make any reductions on atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2), – as any CO2 taken out of the atmosphere by the algae is then returned by the time the fuels are burned – they are said to eliminate the introduction of new CO2 to the atmosphere.

For more information on Ford’s sustainable vehicle and fuel technologies, view the company’s Blueprint for Sustainability.