Research Topic

Recent Advancements in Algae-to-Biofuels Research: Novel Growth Technologies, Conversion Methods, and Assessments of Economic and Environmental Impacts

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Algae biomass has enormous potential to produce fuels and value-added products. Algae-derived biofuels can play a major role in reducing global energy needs and current petrochemicals consumption. Owing to their ability to grow in low quality water/wastewater and to accumulate lipids, algae biomass is ...

Algae biomass has enormous potential to produce fuels and value-added products. Algae-derived biofuels can play a major role in reducing global energy needs and current petrochemicals consumption. Owing to their ability to grow in low quality water/wastewater and to accumulate lipids, algae biomass is considered an attractive feedstock for biodiesel/renewable diesel fuel production. The associated processes involve transesterification and catalytic conversion/hydrogenation reactions. Sustainable lipid extraction/conversion and drying of algal biomass pose major research challenges in the above conversion pathways. Thermochemical conversion methods are alternative ways in which biomass, including algae, can be transformed into liquid, gaseous, and solid fuels along with high valued products. Laboratory scale pyrolysis, gasification, torrefaction, and combustion of algae have been reported in some studies. Hydrothermal conversion of wet, whole algae via hydrothermal liquefaction and carbonization has most recently drawn significant attention of scientists and researchers around the world. Microwave methods of extraction/ conversion are relatively new and have been recently reported. Wet extraction of lipids, in-situ transesterification and anaerobic digestion are some of the new methods of algal conversion

Research into identification of productive algae species and conversion of algae into alternative fuels and other bioproducts is taking place in both public and private arenas. Although significant research has been conducted on algal strain selection, maintenance of pure species, and optimized growth and cultivation of algae biomass, there is still significant room for improvement in these areas. Minimizing land, water and nutrient use is critical to sustainable algae production. Also, recycling of process water, nutrients, and energy is crucial to sustainable large-scale algae production. Other areas of concern include development of improved harvesting and dewatering technologies, improved oil extraction and downstream processing, and development of new/alternate conversion methods that can handle wet algae.

New/ improved technologies must reduce energy intensity, capital and operating costs, and have scalability. Process techno-economics and life-cycle environmental impacts of algae fuels are important tools in assessing the sustainability of new processes. Currently, major challenges in algae biofuel/ bioproducts conversion include poor cost effectiveness, lack of mature alternative conversion technologies, and lack of substantial data needed to evaluate life-cycle environmental impacts of conversion technologies.

In order to gauge the current state of research in the area of algae conversion, Frontiers in Energy Research welcomes papers for an extensive peer reviewed collection dedicated to biofuels/bioproducts from algae. Topics on energy related aspects of algal biofuels (including, microalgae and macroalgae) are encouraged with specific attention to the following topics:

1. Innovations in algae production: Algal strain selection/development, cultivation strategies to ensure feedstock supply, nutrient reuse, and wastewater treatment
2. Harvesting/dewatering, fractionation and extraction of algae biomass
3. Conversion Technologies: synthesis, conversion, or upgrading algal feedstocks into fuels and co‐products including innovations in catalyst development
4. Systems integration and scale‐up (of algal growth, harvesting and processing technologies)
5. Energy analysis of algae conversion systems
6. Life-cycle and techno‐economic analyses of algae-based biofuel value chains
7. Case examples of projects for biofuels production
8. Integrated technologies/ biorefinery methods


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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