There has been an unprecedented pursuit of cleaner and environmental friendly sources of energy by scientists as fossil-fuel need cleaner solutions. Large tracts of fertile farm land are being used to produce bio-ethanol used to fuel transportation vehicles. However, economists and ecologists have allayed fears that despite land-bound resources being renewable. It can cause some future problem when preferences to fuel are given at the expense of food crops. The result is exhaustion of food, and prices will shoot up. A team of scholars led by Prof. Avigdor Abelson of Tel Aviv University’s Department of Zoology and the new Renewable Energy Center, and his colleagues Dr. Alvaro Israel of the Israel Oceanography Institute, Prof. Aharon Gedanken of Bar-Ilan University, Dr. Ariel Kushmaro of Ben-Gurion University, and Leor Korzen, a Ph.D. student, seek to harness from the sea renewable energy that is green, environmental friendly and has no risk on sources of human food. Bio ethanol can be obtained from macro algae and this being a hitherto unexplored field, Prof. Avigdor Abelson says that macro algae or sea weed takes less time to grow compared to terrestrial crops, and the former can be converted to fuel without destroying usable land.
The researchers have now embarked on a mission to develop methods for growing and harvesting sea weed as renewable energy. Prof. Abelson reiterates that besides being grown along the coastline without any interference, the macro algae can also use the surplus marine unfriendly nutrients that result from human activities or aquaculture.
An artificial “ecosystem”
Eutrophication is a major problem affecting a number of coastlines not to mention the Red Sea, in the South of Israel. This takes place due to pollution as a result of human waste and fish farming thereby releasing surplus nutrients and dangerous algae thus destroying endangered coral reefs. Therefore, while terrestrial biomasses have environmental implications, the researchers believe that not only could encouragement of seaweed growing and use seaweed-based resources be used to obtain biofuel, they could also offer solutions to current aforementioned problems within the marine environment.
Prof. Abelson further explains that the system his team is developing dubbed the “Combined Aquaculture Multi-Use Systems” (CAMUS). It puts into perspective both the marine environment and human practices since all these factors are dependent for an “artificial ecosystem” to be created.
Waste products in the form of surplus nutrients produced by artificial fish feeders are detrimental to the marine flora and fauna but could create a positive association in this chain to ensure sustainability of sea weed as the source of fuel. Filter feeders such as oysters consume the excess nutrients and subsequently convert them to food that the micro algae consume hence sustain a relatively yield high seaweed. He also adds that the use of many species will enable CAMUS to not only convert waste into useful products such as biofuel but also reduce the effect of pollution on the surrounding environment.
Creating an opportunity from waste
The researchers are upbeat that macro algae will be a major source for biofuel in the coming days and at the moment; they seek to increase the carbohydrate and sugar content for effective fermentation hence conversion to bio ethanol. To cap it all, the CAMUS system aims at converting seaweed into a sustainable source of fuel. It will be clean sources of energy besides being productive, effective and affordable.