In addition, using seaweed to develop biofuels is much more environmentally beneficial than creating bioethanol from crops like corn and sugarcane, as using such crops for this purpose instead of to feed people causes food prices to rocket and can lead to food shortages.
Avigdor Abelson, a professor of Tel Aviv University's Department of Zoology and the new Renewable Energy Centre, also believes that growing macroalgae for bioethanol production can take care of the problem of eutrophication along the country’s coasts, EcoSeed reports.
Multiple coastal regions, such as the Red Sea in the south of Israel, have been struck by eutrophication, which is pollution in the water caused by human waste and aquaculture. The result is excessive amounts of nutrients including phosphates and nitrates as well as detrimental algae, all elements that ultimately damage endangered coral reefs.
The scientists created an artificial “ecosystem” which they call “Combined Aquaculture Multi-Use Systems” (CAMUS). It incorporates the effects of human activity and realistically mimics the marine environment.
The excess nutrients emerging from man-made fish feeders, which are considered contaminants due to their harmful effects on the marine ecosystem, could be utilised by filter feeders like oysters and other shellfish, which would in turn generate food to sustain the growth of more seaweed, according to the scientists. Moreover, according to Abelson, the seaweed can be grown along the coast unobtrusively, UPI reports.
“By employing multiple species, CAMUS can turn waste into productive resources such as biofuel, at the same time reducing pollution's impact on the local ecosystem," he stated, Environmental Protection Magazine reports.
Another advantage is that seaweed could be a renewable energy source that does not jeopardise natural habitats, biodiversity or human food sources. Now, the researchers are collaborating to amplify the carbohydrate and sugar contents of seaweed so they can efficiently ferment it into bioethanol. The team is confident that macroalgae will be a major source for biofuel in the future.