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Ford Scientists to Explore Algae Biofuels

October 12, 2010

Ford Motor Company scientists have announced that they are working to understand the suitability of algae as potential automotive biofuels. This effort is an integral part of Ford’s desire to better understand the use of biomass to produce future biofuels, as part of their overall strategy to reduce the nation’s dependence on foreign oil and address climate change.

“Ford has a long history of developing vehicles that run on renewable fuels; and the increased use of biofuels is an important element of our sustainability strategy now and moving forward,” said Tim Wallington, technical leader with the Ford Systems Analytics and Environmental Sciences Department. “We look ahead from a technological, economic, environmental, and social standpoint at potential next-generation renewable fuels that could power our vehicles.”

This year, Ford researchers visited Wayne State University’s National Biofuels Energy Laboratory, which is actively analyzing suitable algae strains that could be used as a feedstock for biodiesel. The Ford researchers, part of the company’s Systems Analytics and Environmental Sciences Department, also have conducted in-house research on the opportunities and challenges of producing biodiesel from algae oil.

“Algae have some very desirable characteristics as a potential biofuel feedstock and Ford wants to show its support for any efforts that could lead to a viable, commercial-scale application of this technology,” said Sherry Mueller, Research Scientist, Ford Motor Company. “At this point, algae researchers are still challenged to find economical and sustainable ways for commercial-scale controlled production and culturing of high oil-producing algae.”

At Ford, algae is one of the possible future biofuels researchers are keeping a close eye on. Other bio-based solutions such as ethanol and butanol, ideally from cellulosic feedstocks are considered to have more near-term potential. “We recognize the important contribution that biofuels could make toward a more sustainable future and improved energy security,” said Jim Anderson, technical expert, Ford Motor Company. “Ford is very supportive of the increased availability of biofuels and biofuel blends from diverse and sustainable sources.”

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