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An economic and technical evaluation of microalgal biofuels

Stephens, E., Ross, I.L., King, Z., Mussgnug, J.H., Kruse, O., Posten, C., Borowitzka, M.A.ORCID: 0000-0001-6504-4563 and Hankamer, B. (2010) An economic and technical evaluation of microalgal biofuels. Nature Biotechnology, 28 (2). pp. 126-128.

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In her News Feature “Biotech’s green gold”, Emily Waltz details the ‘hype’ being propagated around emerging microalgal biofuel technologies, which often exceeds the physical and thermodynamic constraints that ultimately define their economic viability. Our calculations counter such excessive claims and demonstrate that 22 MJ m−2 d−1 solar radiation supports practical yield maxima of ∼60 to 100 kl oil ha−1 y−1 (∼6,600 to 10,800 gal ac−1 y−1) and an absolute theoretical ceiling of ∼94 to 155 kl oil ha−1 y−1, assuming a maximum photosynthetic conversion efficiency of 10%. To evaluate claims and provide an accurate analysis of the potential of microalgal biofuel systems, we have conducted industrial feasibility studies and sensitivity analyses based on peer-reviewed data and industrial expertise. Given that microalgal biofuel research is still young and its development still in flux, we anticipate that the stringent assessment of the technology's economic potential presented below will assist R&D investment and policy development in the area going forward.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Biological Sciences and Biotechnology
Publisher: Nature Publishing Group
Notes: Letter
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