Sherbrooke researcher transforms algae into biofuel
A PhD student at the University of Sherbrooke is turning to the waters of the St. Lawrence River to develop a new kind of biodiesel made from algae.
The micro-algae he is studying grows naturally in the St. Lawrence Estuary and Marc Veillette said the photosynthetic organism has special properties that could transform it into good-quality biodiesel.
For example, he said it doesn't crystallize quickly in the cold.
"Micro-algae biodiesel has more interesting compounds so it makes its' properties for cold climates more interesting," he said. He added that the micro-algae is environmentally friendly because it mitigates double its weight in carbon dioxide. Another advantage, he said, is that it grows in the water, so it doesn't take up cropland they way other biofuels made from corn and soy do. Algae is also the fastest-growing plant-like material on the planet.
As the price of gas continues to climb, there is a growing interest in alternative sources of energy. Veillette believes algae could be one of them.
"It's an interesting technology to reduce green house gas emissions," he said.
Veillette has been working on his project for six months so far and said he has already seen promising results. He has three years to finish the project, and make sure the fuel he produces meets North American standards.