Seaweed from Ireland’s coasts could help run cars in the future, scientists claimed today.
Experts claim biofuel can be produced from the 16 varieties of the algae in the country.
Irish Seaweed Centre manager Dr Stefan Kraan said: “With its rich, sustainable, seaweed resources, Ireland is poised to become an important player in the next generation of biofuel production.”
He added: “We will examine the economic and social aspects of... biofuel production from macroalgae.”
Dr Kraan was speaking at an annual international conference of experts on the issue at NUI Galway.
Australian seaweed expert Prof Michael A Borowitzka said biofuel needs to be produced cheaply on a year-round basis to be commercially viable.
“For biofuel production the algal biomass needs to be produced at a cost of around 1 or less per kg,” he explained.
The NUI Galway event was organised by the International Society for Applied Phycology (the scientific study of algae) and has attracted engineers, manufacturers, contractors, scientists, researchers, students, economists, industry representatives and policymakers.
Ireland boasts 16 commercially useful seaweed species and its location off Western Europe surrounded by clean seas could be a major selling point to the world market.
Seaweeds in Ireland are currently used as food supplements, fertilisers, liquid seaweed extracts, cosmetics, body-care products, seaweed treatments and biomedicine.
However seaweed has long been investigated as a potential source of bioethanol, which is typically made from crops such as sugar cane and corn.
Dr Kraan added: “Algae do not have the negative image of terrestrial biomass resources, which are said to be responsible for higher food prices, impacting on water use, biodiversity and destruction of rain forest.
“This conference will also allow us to examine the current technologies available for the production of bioethanol from seaweed.
“We will examine the economic and social aspects of using brown seaweeds for bioethanol production and discuss the feasibility of biofuel production from macroalgae.”