Airplanes May Soon be Using Algae to Fly

There are a myriad of uses for algae

Airplanes in Turkey may soon use algae jet-fuel.

(muratart / Shutterstock.com)

New uses for algae are becoming increasingly widespread. From eating healthier, to a natural fertilizer, and to being used in a bio-jet fuel, this aquatic plant’s popularity is soaring.

Now, the first European carbon-neutral biorefinery opened in Istanbul, Turkey, according to euronews, to make a number of useful products including biofuel. The refinery is part of the country’s INDEPENDENT project that plans to provide biofuels to reduce the dependency on non-renewable energy sources like fossil-fuels. It is a joint project by the European Union and Turkey.

“The work is underway for the use of biofuels produced here by Turkish Airlines. We want to carry out [the] first flight using biofuel from here before the end of 2022,” Turkish energy and natural resources minister Mustafa Varank said at the inauguration ceremony, according to the Daily Sabah.

What is algae and why is it important?
Algae is actually a very diverse group of photosynthetic aquatic organisms. Photosynthesis is a process used by plants and some organisms that converts sunlight into chemical energy.

While most people are aware of certain types of algae like seaweed (kelp), pond scum, and algae in their fish tanks, there are a myriad of types of algae that are very helpful,  according to Live Science. In fact, algae produce close to half of the oxygen on Earth.

What most people don’t know is that oil is formed from ancient algae deposits but since the world’s supply of oil is limited, it makes sense to turn to algae biofuel as an alternative.

About the biorefinery
The refinery is set up inside Bo─čaziçi University – adjacent to the Black Sea – in a huge 2,500 square-meter (27,000 square-foot ) research and development space, reported euronews. The facility will be able to handle 1,200 tons of algae per year.

While the biorefinery is going to produce a variety of products including food supplements and animal feed, the country is counting on creating bio-jet fuel which can be blended with standard jet fuel. This will help cut its dependency on energy imports as well as cut its carbon emissions.

“Switching to a structure where all resources, primarily energy, is used efficiently, the waste is minimized and recycled and carbon footprints do not exist is a must for us. We showed our determination on this path by ratifying the Paris Agreement. Similarly, we are making all preparations for compliance with the European Green Deal,” Varank said at the inauguration ceremony.

The biorefinery’s electricity is provided by renewable wind power. The facility has a zero-waste target and intends to be carbon-negative. Turkey is showing the world that algae can be a path to going green.

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