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Energy 101 | Algae-to-Fuel

September 5, 2012 - 5:11pm


How Energy Department scientists and researchers produce clean, renewable fuel -- from algae.

When you think of algae – what immediately comes to mind? Perhaps it’s the color green, or maybe an image of a curious-looking underwater species. Whatever your immediate thought, most likely, it is not related to fuel. But that’s exactly what Energy Department scientists and researchers are exploring right now – strategies to produce clean, renewable biofuel from algae. 
In this edition of our Energy 101 video series, we’re taking a behind-the-scenes look at the process for converting algae into fuel. 
Algae are small aquatic organisms that convert sunlight into energy. With more than 100,000 different species, algae are among the most diverse groups of organisms on earth. The key to algae’s potential as a renewable fuel source lies in the way they store energy. That’s because some strains of algae store energy in the form of natural oils. Extract that oil and you have the raw material to make fuel for cars, trucks, trains, and planes. 
Algae-based biofuels hold enormous potential for helping reduce our dependence on foreign oil. In a study released last year, the Department’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory found that 17 percent of the United States’ imported oil for transportation could be replaced with homegrown, algae-based biofuels. At the Energy Department, we’re investing in projects that will accelerate technological breakthroughs to scale-up this promising, homegrown resource. 
Watch Energy 101 | Algae-to-Fuels to learn how oil is extracted from algae and refined into sustainable biofuels. For more energy basics, check out our Energy 101 YouTube playlist.