You might have heard about harnessing the power of algae to make biofuels, but the team at Joule Biotechnologies decided started from scratch — by redesigning the organisms themselves.
They genetically engineered organisms that use photosynthesis to directly create the molecules that form the basis of diesel. Their SolarConverter array system suspends these organisms in a solution within a light-permeable structure that looks something like a solar panel array. Point these arrays at the sun, and the critters turn carbon dioxide and sunlight into biodiesel. They expect their first plant to be online by 2011.
Unlike traditional biofuels, like ethanol, the SolarConverter requires no farmland to grow the corn or other feedstock. In fact, the sunnier and more “useless” the land, the better.
Beyond fueling long-distance trucks, you could picture this system sitting beside large-scale solar farms or wind farms. Joule-biodiesel-powered generators could provide the green energy needed to cover the times of day when the sun doesn’t shine and wind doesn’t blow.