- Written by Anna Strom
Bioethanol may be successfully produced from genetically engineered algae, carbon dioxide and sunlight, Kerstin Baier of Algenol Biofuel Germany told the Umeå Renewable Energy Meeting on its third and final day 27 March. In fact, 4,000 photo bioreactors taking up two acres of land were turning out the very thing at the company’s "integrated" biorefinery at Fort Myers in Florida, U.S.A.. The step to commercialisation would be taken in 2017, according to Baier. Advantages of the technology was its low fresh water consumption, the "highly energy-efficient" technology used and that fact that productive strains of cyanobateria (a type of blue-green algae) were used, she said.
An assessment by a constellation of industrial companies, research institutes and academia has shown that it would be economically feasible to replace parts of a chemical industry cluster at petro chemically-based operations with bio-based ditto. The plastic making companies, located at Stenungssund in the south and west of Sweden, thus could continue using their current infrastructure, but be sourced with woody feedstock for some of their processes and involve available technology, be drop-in solutions and concern bulk processes. This “Forest Chemistry” project was unique in Sweden since it had brought the chemical industry together with environmental chemistry scientists and social science researchers, in an attempt to assess the feasibility of lessening the industry’s reliance on products refined from fossil oil.
Last but not least, Pierre Joliot, 61 years a photosynthesis researcher and grandchild of the twice Nobel Prize winning physicist Marie Curie, delivered a few lessons on the tribulations of scientific research and described some highlights of his career.
"Our jobs as scientists is to find something new", professor Joliot said. Perhaps not by means of large breakthroughs but by "making a lot of small discoveries. I think we are all able to do this as scientists.
"One must have a right of failure in basic research, otherwise one stays in the dogma… A certain degree of ignorance is needed", he said.
Joliot said he had started his research career in the 1950s and, apart from a short stint in the U.S.A. in the 60s, worked for most of it from his native country, France. Among other things he had carried out functional studies on oxygen evolution, long-distance energy transfer and what he termed the “charge accumulation process”, he told participants on the last day of UREM 2015.