By 2050, aviation-related carbon emissions are expected to quadruple to over 3000 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, so finding sustainable alternative solutions to minimise pollution is a key scientific challenge. Aviation gasoline and kerosene are currently used to power most jet engines. While battery-powered planes and planes that could utilise a cleaner fuel, such as hydrogen, are possible, the time scale required to improve and implement these technologies is distant, with air fleet turnover taking some 30 years. Existing jet engines could be modified to run on biodiesel, and considering the close similarity in fuel density to kerosene, could be a less disruptive approach to the industry. The sheer volume of biodiesel required remains a challenge, and certainly, using plant-derived oils grown on arable land is not acceptable, as it competes with food production. However, high-lipid-yielding microalgae (where productivity is an order of magnitude greater than oilseeds), grown on marginal land, such as desert or semi-desert areas of the world, could be possible. Indeed, to replace 30% of fossil fuel with algal-derived biodiesel would require 11,345 km2 of land. Biodiesel preparation is well understood, but what is lacking is proven technology aimed at optimising microalgal production of oil at a much larger scale. Here, a synergic review of the current state-of-the-art in algal production, that includes strain selection, possible production sites, culturing costs, and harvesting to identify the bottlenecks in meeting the ASTM specifications for the aviation industry, is presented.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
The study was funded by the UKIERI project (Grant Number: DST-UKIERI 18-19-04): Waste to Energy—Low Temperature Combustion of Sustainable Green Fuels.
© 2023 by the authors.
- Plant Science
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology (miscellaneous)
- Food Science