Looking over the first and second issues of Biofuels, I have picked a few things that are important to the algae industry. The format of the journal has sections split into editorials, news and analysis (covering policy and effects), research articles, and reviews. I really like the format and topics that have been covered so far.
Initially, I was drawn to the journal because of the editorial "Fuels from algae." (It is available as a free download below or at Biofuels) In the editorial Dr. Chisti hits upon a major milestone of credibility in the algae biofuels sector: having an oil company as a partner. Several of the leading algae biofuel companies have established working relationships with oil companies. What lures the oil companies to algae is a renewable source potential petroleum alternatives including diesel, jet fuel, and chemicals.
Why are algae a better crop for biofuels than row crops? Algae have the ability to utilize non arable land, a variety of water sources (fresh, brackish, and salt water), and have high biomass productivity. Nature has found a way to make algae more efficient biomass producers by the means of nutrient logistics, and the availability of carbon dioxide in aquatic environments.
Algae are more productive than their row crop counterparts is because of nutrient logistics.
"Each algal cell can absorb nutrients directly from its surroundings and, therefore, algae do not have to rely on energy-consuming, long-distance transport of nutrients via roots and stem."
Carbon dioxide availability
"In plants, photosynthetic tissue can access carbon dioxide only through pores known as stomata. These pores are not always open and carbon dioxide must move through them against a flow of water vapor. The carbon dioxide diffusion pathway from the surface of the photosynthetic tissue to a photosynthesizing cell is much longer in plants than in microalgae and increases with increasing thickness of the photosynthetic structure. Algae, therefore, can access carbon dioxide more easily than vascular plants and this contributes to
the relatively rapid growth of algae."
These two factors play a huge role in allowing algae to be more productive than other biofuel crops.
Chisti points to genetic and metabolic engineering as strategies for biofuel crop improvements. Currently, algae is lagging behind it's model plant counterparts in genetic engineering. Hopefully, this will change with the surge of interest in algae, biofuels, and the rush of eager bright new minds entering into the field.