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Japan taps algae for renewable fuels and radioactive waste cleanup

A government-backed algae production project in Japan seeks to look into algae as a source of renewable fuels as well as a way to eliminate radioactive materials.

According to Dr. Takaaki Maekawa, president of the Research Institute of Tsukuba Bio-tech, they have received grant approval from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries to build one-acre sites to prove that biofuels production and toxic remediation using algae is possible for Japan.

In the wake of the Fukushima accident, Japan has been stepping up their efforts to develop cleaner sources of energy and fuel.

Algae are considered a promising biofuel feedstock as it is fast growing and hardy and have a high oil content. In addition, algae also have the ability to absorb radioactive cesium, a contaminant that can cause radiation sickness and death.

Given their thrust towards renewables plus the on-going clean-up and recovery actions at Fukushima, its no wonder the government is keen to look into algae.

Initial funding has been approved for two initial sites, one near Narita International Airport and the other in Fukushima itself. After proving is complete, the program could potentially expand to over 100 sites throughout Japan.

Dr. Maekawa, a professor Emeritus at Tsukuba University near Tokyo, has been studying algae’s potential as an alternative fuel for some time now.

In 2009, he headed a team from R.I.T.B. that signed a memorandum of Understanding with OriginOil to develop and distribute algae systems for sustainable jet fuel in Japan.

Dr. Maekawa’s previous relationship with American OriginOil will come into play once more in this new project as it will be using OriginOil algae harvesting technologies.

OriginOil has developed a low energy, chemical-free, continuous flow “wet harvest” system they call Algae Appliances. Algae culture is fed directly into the Algae Appliance without any pretreatment or concentration. The raw algae are then subjected to tuned electromagnetic pulses that rupture the cell wall to release the oils and remove the water. – EcoSeed Staff



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