The Lindbergh Foundation is very excited to be funding Stephanie Mixson's research into "Conserving Energy and Freshwater by Harnessing Saltwater Algae as a Biofuel Source." Her project is unique from other work being done to create biofuels from algae because she is focusing on saltwater algae, and being able to use existing coastal refineries to create a "drop-in" replacement for oil. Mixson added that, "One of the primary goals of this project is to produce aviation biofuels using microalgae."
Furthermore, the resulting product is expected to meet specifications for Jet A-1 and JP-8 fuels.
John King, co-chairman of King Schools, Inc., and board member of the Lindbergh Foundation, weighed in on this subject, saying, "To continue to be viable, the aviation industry must solve the problem of carbon emissions. The work Ms. Mixson is conducting, with support from the Lindbergh Foundation, offers one of the best hopes for a solution to this critical problem."
Dr. William Roberts, Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at North Carolina State University, explained that the emissions from this fuel would not add additional greenhouse gases to the atmosphere because the feedstocks pull carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere to grow (i.e., the carbon is non-anthropogenic), and by emitting less particulate matter, the radiation balance is affected in a positive way. "Microalgae is probably 7 – 10 years away from being commercially viable, and other oil crops, such as camelina or jatropha, could be ready in as little as 3 years at the scale of 10 million gallons per year using our process, with aggressive funding," said Dr. Roberts.
The best news is that competitive pricing, similar to petroleum at approximately $2.50 per gallon, is planned.
This project is very important and timely because as Ms. Mixson points out, two of the most important natural resources supporting modern civilization are oil and freshwater. Worldwide, there are already freshwater shortages and no substitutes for most freshwater uses including growing agricultural crops, manufacturing goods, and safeguarding human health. Furthermore, freshwater is being used to make fuel. Petroleum-based fuels are also being rapidly depleted, so scientists are turning to renewable biofuels. However, most attention has been on freshwater microalgae, which would further drain freshwater resources.
This is what the Lindbergh Foundation's concept of "Balance" is all about. Using science and innovation to tackle real-world problems that affect our environment and quality of life.