According to news reports, macro-algae, or seaweed, is being viewed by major investors as a better source of sugars for ethanol, biofuels, biochemicals, and biopolymers than land-based crops, because it grows fraster, has a higher sugar content, absorbs more airborne carbon, and can be harvested up to six times each year. Among those entities investing millions in macroalgae production and research are South Korea, the city of Venice, Scotland, Chile, the Philippines, the U.S. Department of Energy, and companies such as DuPont and Bio Architecture Lab. China and other Asian nations have apparently used macro-algae for more than 100 years for food, animal feed, pharmaceuticals, and cosmetics. Its emergence and future in biofuels commercialization is analyzed in detail in Algae 2020. See Biofuels Digest, October 4, 2010.
Meanwhile, CNN.com has reported that the airline industry is investing in research on harvesting algae for jet fuel. British Airways and Airbus are apparently supporting Cranfield University researchers who believe algae could be produced commercially within four years. According to Cranfield Professor Feargal Brennan, “A great advantage of algae is you can harvest it every seven to 12 days, so you get 30 to 50 harvests a year, compared with one a year of conventional crops.” Part of the research includes investigating whether algae could be grown in close proximity to airports to avoid transportation costs and reduce carbon footprint. See CNN.com, October 11, 2010.