Is Algae worth the wait?
Welcome to the Algalsphere, a blog covering all things algae, from the lesser known applications like the algae-derived local anesthetic recently tested at Children’s Hospital Boston, to the ever popular quest to produce liquid transportation fuels. Don’t worry though, this algae-based discussion isn’t relying on a clever name or big claims to get attention. As part of Biorefining Magazine’s new biannual, Algae Technology & Business, we’re providing insight and perspective compiled from industry experts, university researchers and anyone else involved in the business of algae, trying to make sense of it all.
We’re not the only ones this week trying to make sense of the algae landscape. The U.S. DOE’s Biomass Program is holding a two-day review session centered around current research and development efforts in algae. The review session will include eight university-led presentations, 18 national laboratory presentations and a handful of others from private firms working on algae. The premise of the sessions is simple. While the Biomass Program describes the sessions as something to “help break down critical barriers and promote sustainable, affordable, and scalable algae-based biofuels,” the main goal seems much more related to the question those who work in algae face everyday, when?
My guess is that every presenter will have an answer for the timeline question, sort of. Take a look at the agenda and you’ll see a term used multiple times in the titles of the various presentations and it becomes apparent that there might not be a definitive answer to that question of when, but instead, an indication that the algae industry is like that clunky cell phone from the ‘80s still on its way to Smartphone status. While there are plenty of current uses for algae (animal feed, neutraceuticals, or even beauty products), the industry is still in development mode—and that’s not a bad thing. Considering the number of cell phones in the world today, it’s probably worth it, solely from an economic standpoint, to put in the time and investment now, given the potential of algae and the number of people it could affect. Off the top of my head, I don’t know a single person that doesn’t own a cell phone. Do you?
For more on the Biomass Program’s algae review sessions, check back with Algae Technology & Business.