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Autotrophic microalgae are cultivated on land in large ponds, or in enclosed so-called photobioreactors, using enriched CO2. The CO2 can come in the form of flue gases from power plants or be obtained from other fossil fuel combustion and biological processes. They thus can help recycle this specific greenhouse gas, and can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions overall when the algal biomass is converted into biofuels.
Heterotrophic microalgae are grown in large fermenters using sugar or starch, similar to the corn ethanol fermentation already providing almost 10 percent of our liquid transportation fuels.
Seaweeds (macroalgae) are cultivated in seawater, typically in near-shore systems, though open ocean cultivation has been studied in the past and is again of interest, and even on-shore cultivation of seaweeds is a possibility.
Algae can reproduce very rapidly, faster than any other plants, and there are tens of thousands of species of algae, with more constantly being discovered.
UCSD’s Dr. Mitchell gives a lesson in algae 101
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