Queensland a hub for vital algae biofuel research

Algae is developed as a fuel source in Brisbane’s Solar Biofuels Research Centre which was unveiled on Tuesday.
Algae is developed as a fuel source in Brisbane’s Solar Biofuels Research Centre which was unveiled on Tuesday.

IT IS the green gunk you hope never to find in your water, but scientists all over the world are looking to Queensland to develop it into energy for the future.

Algae could become a major power source, using energy from the sun, sucking carbon dioxide from the air and able to be converted into a useable fuel.

Unlike the use of corn and sugar-cane crops in the production of fuel, algae does not need to be grown on fertile land, neutralising any fight between food and fuel.

The algae is grown in small ponds, which resemble bathtubs.

The Queensland Government has worked with the University of Queensland to develop the Solar Biofuels Research Centre, which was officially opened in Brisbane on Tuesday.

Professor Ben Hamkamer of UQ's Institute of Molecular Bioscience doubles as the head of the international Solar Biofuels Consortium, a group with teams in seven countries featuring 100 researchers.

He said the centre would be a focal point of the group, bringing together economists, engineers, biologists and industry to develop the biofuel technology.

"Algae research is going on throughout the world," Prof Hamkamer said.

"Algae oils have been extracted and have been used in commercial airlines to test them."

Rough estimates suggest a barrel of this algae fuel could cost between $300 and $1000, compared to $100 a barrel for petrol, so the goal is to bring down that price.

Premier Campbell Newman toured the facility, spruiking the $3.5 million project which would build Australia's reputation in the fiercely competitive sector.

Mr Newman said as it progressed, the biofuels industry could prove valuable as a money spinner for rural Queensland.

The state's industry already employs almost 10,000.

Topics:  algae biofuel economy university of queensland

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