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Boost for algae biofuel commercialisation

11 October, 2012

RMIT University has signed a multi-million dollar partnership with World Wide Carbon Credits Australia to develop an algae-based biofuel at a commercial scale.

As part of a major biofuel project directed by RMIT's Professor Andy Ball, the University is partnering with WWCC in a venture capital project focused on the commercial scaleablility of the promising biofuel alternative.

Professor Ball, Professor in Environmental Microbiology in the School of Applied Sciences, said traditional approaches to producing biofuels using agricultural products posed controversial problems around using food for fuel, as well as the potential impact on food prices and poverty in the developing world.

"Algae are an ideal alternative for biofuel because they are able to convert carbon dioxide to organic carbon and are potentially more productive than any other photosynthetic organism," he said.

"The technology to grow algae on a large scale has existed for decades but due to technical and economical challenges, there are no large-scale facilities for producing algae for use in biofuels.

"Through this project and our collaboration with WWCC, we hope to develop processes using biotechnology techniques that will make large-scale production and harvesting of algae for biofuels commercially viable."

Toby Jones, spokesperson for WWCC, said the partnership was a fantastic example of collaboration between business and universities.

"We are very excited about the potential of the research being undertaken to produce renewable, high-quality, long chain hydrocarbons, which will initially have high-value applications in the chemical, pharmaceutical and cosmetics industries," Jones said.

"As we scale commercially, this process offers a viable alternative as a transitional biofuel and we look forward to working with RMIT to bring this inspiring development to market.

"This research could provide a key example of how Australia could be much more self-sustaining with its fuel sources.

"It is also hoped that the collaboration between RMIT and WWCC will lead to longer-term solutions that can create a fuel security for Australia."

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Mohammad Hossain | Monday, October 29, 2012, 11:00 PM
Sustainable development in alternative energy sector needs a breakthrough.