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Researchers exploring micro-algae as alternative fuel

HANCOCK COUNTY — Researchers at the University of Southern Mississippi are participating in an international research project aimed at turning marine micro-algae into fuel.

“All the oil we are pumping out of the ground, what was it? Most people think dinosaurs.  No. It was all marine micro algae,” said Dr. Donald Redalje, professor in the Southern Miss Department of Marine Science.

Today, Redalje’s Marine Science lab at Stennis Space Center is studying algae, grown from Mississippi coastal waters, and recreating that ancient process.

“We now look for one that produces large oil droplets that what became oil in past million years ago,” said Redalje. “Now we’re finding ways to promote cells to produce a whole lot of these oil droplets.”

Already biofuel blends have found their way to naval war ships and test flights on commercial airliners. The trick, says Redalje, is streamlining the process so that it can be packaged and sold.

“We know this works, the trick is how do we produce enough of it, cheaply enough to be a marketable product?”

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