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Some researchers and companies are pursuing an alternative approach to growing algae using sunlight: growing them in the dark on sugars, in a so-called “heterotrophic” fermentation. The algae convert the sugars to oil and biomass, which can be converted into biofuels, chemicals, nutritional products, cosmetics, etc.
San Francisco-based company Solazyme, the pioneer of this method, has already produced tens of thousands of gallons of algae-based fuels as part of their research and development agreement with the Defense Logistics Agency to provide the US Navy with significant quantities of advanced HRD-76 marine diesel fuel and HRJ-5 aviation fuel. These fuels have been successfully tested at 50/50 blends with petroleum in vehicles ranging from an MH60S Seahawk helicopter to a Riverine Command Boat, among many other platforms. Solazyme is also producing renewable oils for the chemicals, nutrition and skin and personal care space utilizing today’s existing industrial scale fermentation capacity.
UCSD’s Dr. Mitchell gives a lesson in algae 101
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