Generating Energy from Aquarium Guck

Algae are capable of producing biodiesel, a type of biofuel that is produced by chemically reacting fats (called lipids) with an alcohol (a compound that contains –OH—known as hydroxyl—in their chemical structure). Biodiesel production through algae initially requires the organisms to produce lipids, molecules that are essential for maintaining their cellular activities. Many (but not all) lipids cannot dissolve in water, and typically contain hydrogen and carbon in their structure.


Image via Algae built up in your tank because you were too lazy to clean it, right? Your poor fish. Image via

It turns out that all that green guck that built up in your aquarium was capable of doing more than you ever thought: Generating fuels that can potentially replace fossil fuels in the distant future.

Human factors (anthropogenic activities) such as burning fossil fuels are increasing the concentrations of CO2 into the atmosphere, causing a climate warming (global warming).

In an attempt to decrease the amount of atmospheric CO2, algae are considered an alternative solution. Algae are microorganisms that are capable of harnessing solar energy, nutrients, and CO2 to produce compounds for their own survival (i.e. carbohydrates, fats, proteins, pigments). Some species of microalgae may also grow in the absence of light, while different species require either inorganic (CO2) or organic carbon…

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